Minutewomen set for Wake Forest, Virginia

By Jeffrey Okerman

Maria Uminski/Collegian

With the conference portion of the schedule drawing ever closer, there’s still time to put together quality wins that could booster the Massachusetts women’s soccer team’s NCAA tournament résumé.

UMass has that chance this weekend when it travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., to participate in the Wake Forest tournament. The Minutewomen (2-2) have a pair of games against No. 15 Wake Forest and No. 13 Virginia Tech on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

After this weekend’s action, UMass will have already played three ranked opponents with Boston University – currently on the outside of the rankings looking in – still to come next week. Six games into the 2011 season, the Minutewomen had yet to play a ranked opponent and would only play one all season.

The Demon Deacons (4-1-1) have started strongly this year, scoring 10 goals in their opening six matches.

Wake Forest was upset on Aug, 24 by North Carolina Greensboro, 1-0, despite tallying 23 shots in its only home match.

Wake Forest restored its winning ways by putting up three straight victories. In that three-game stretch, 43 shots produced six goals for the Demon Deacons.

But the Minutewomen are no strangers to facing numerous shots throughout a match. In its opening two matches, UMass defenders dealt with 57 shots and allowed just four goals.

In order to find success against Wake Forest, the Minutewomen will be forced to maintain their defensive organization and composure should the Demon Deacons have them on their heels.

Wake Forest also holds an advantage in having multiple scoring threats. Coming into the weekend, the Demon Deacons boast eight different goal scorers through their first six games compared to the Minutewomen’s two – Moa Mattsson (three goals) and Jen Coppola (one goal).

The concluding round of the tournament pits the Hokies (6-0) against UMass. Virginia Tech comes into the weekend with just two goals conceded and five clean-sheets from six games.

The Hokies have improved each week, jumping up to No. 11 after starting the season at No. 22.

Virginia Tech opened the 2012 campaign with an overtime victory over North Carolina Wilmington on Aug. 17 followed by blanking Richmond on Aug. 19. Most recently, the Hokies netted seven goals in a pair of victories over Mount St. Mary’s and American on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, respectively.

Like the Demon Deacons, Virginia Tech has several scoring threats, including eight separate goal scorers. The Hokies boast four players with two goals apiece, along with Shannon Mayrose’s three scores to lead the squad.

For UMass, a successful weekend could make a major impact on its tournament chances come the end of the regular season. Strong performances could supplement any in-conference exploits the Minutewomen could have, if they replicate a run into the Atlantic-10 tournament like their 2011 run.

UMass begins its Wake Forest Tournament on Friday night with a 7 p.m. start. Sunday’s match kicks off at 11:30 a.m.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.