Minutewomen bring mix of youth and experience to 2012 season

By Chris Corso

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Maria Uminski/Collegian

It’s all about three things this year for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team: youth, inexperience and goalkeepers.

Leading the Minutewomen, who lost in the Atlantic 10 title game, is third-year coachEd Matz, whose goal is to bring UMass its sixth conference title in school history and reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years.

The 2012 roster seems promising for Matz, as he welcomes back seven starters to the lineup, featuring two All-Region players from last season— goalkeeper Emily Cota and midfielder Moa Mattsson.

Cota had a strong season last year for the Minutewomen, posting a 12-4-1 record and 10 shutouts. UMass let up 14 goals all season.

While much of the talent from last year is back, the team features eight freshmen players, who will need to make an impact if the team will have any chance of success this season.

However, fellow senior Stephanie Gordon will keep Cota on her toes, going 2-1-1 in four starts last season after transferring from Northeastern. Her dedication to the team and leadership on the field landed the upperclassmen as a co-captain on this season’s UMass roster.

“The most experience we have is in our goaltenders,” Matz said. “To have Emily Cota back and Stephanie Gordon healthy makes for a tremendous battle for playing time in our goal this year”.

With the departure of leading scorer’s Julie Morrissey and Deanna Colarossi, Mattsson will be called upon to lead UMass’ offense this year.

The midfielder led the team last season with four assists and placed second on the team with shots (41), as well as shots on goal (17) in her freshman season.

Fellow sophomore Tori Sousa will also be a major threat to score this year after an impressive freshman year. In 11 starts in 2011, the underclassman tallied four goals and four assists.

“For the underclassmen we put a lot of responsibility on Moa Mattson and Tori Sousa, offensively,” Matz said.  “We need these two players to have the kind of year they had last year and really build on that.”

The Minutewomen also have high hopes for junior newcomer Hlín Gunnlaugsdóttir, who transferred from the University of Iceland. Matz has high expectations for his new upperclassman.

“Our new junior Hlín Gunnlaugsdóttir is a fabulous player and should be one of the best overall players in the Atlantic 10 this season,” Matz said.

UMass Women’s Soccer Preview from Daily Collegian on Vimeo Video by Cameron McDonough.

One of UMass’ keys to success last season was its defense, which will be led this season by senior Jess Howe and junior Lauren Skesavage.

Howe has started all but two games for the Minutewomen since her freshmen year, and guided the defense to five consecutive shutouts at one point last season. UMass finished second in the conferencewith 11 shutouts last year – the most by any Minutewomen team in 15 years.

Skesavage started every game at defender last season in her sophomore year.

“Lauren, Stephanie and Jess all had a great spring season on and off the field, while gaining the confidence of their teammates,”  Matz told UMassAthletics.com. “I am excited to have these three players lead us into the 2012 season.”

After coming up short in their opener against No. 6 UCLA, the Minutewomen continue to ride out their non-conference schedule before beginning A-10 play Sept. 20 against Dayton, which handed UMass the loss in the A-10 Championship last season.

Chris Corso can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Corso.