Youth serving for Minutewomen

By Cameron McDonough

Maria Uminski/Collegian

When Massachusetts women’s soccer coach Ed Matz looked at his team’s schedule over the summer, he never foresaw how strongly his Minutewomen would perform this past weekend.

The young UMass squad kept both games competitive while on the road against two ranked Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech,  and had a chance to win on each occasion, but fell 1-0 to the Demon Deacons and 2-0 to the Hokies.

“I think to be honest, the games were very competitive, probably more so than I may have envisioned over the summer,” Matz said.

“We were tied at halftime and we had a chance to win both games in the second half and as a coach that’s all you can ask for.”

After losing four of its six leading scorers from last year, the Minutewomen are starting four freshmen with two more rookies playing regularly off the bench.

Matz was pleasantly surprised by his newcomers’ play, but in the end, he said his young squad made too many unforced errors, which led to its defeats.

“I thought as the games went on, it was evident that (the opposition) had a few more weapons than we did and when we made mistakes, they were able to capitalize on them,” Matz said.

“And then when they made mistakes we didn’t and they were able to recover. There is a lot we can take from this weekend. We certainly wanted to win both games and we had the chance to do so, but all in all it wasn’t a bad weekend for us.”

UMass’ young strikers were unable to find the back of the net this weekend, a common theme that’s been on display throughout the early part of this season.

The Minutewomen have only scored five goals in their first six games and have been shutout in their last three contests.

According to Matz, this is the most glaring area that his team needs to focus on going forward.

“I think we need to have a better understanding offensively of what to do with the ball, especially when we are under pressure,” Matz said.

“Offensively, I don’t think we play enough balls into dangerous positions to be much of a threat, especially when we are playing these very elite teams.”

But UMass has one offensive playmaker in sophomore Moa Mattsson, who leads the team with three goals.  As teams zero in on Mattsson, the younger players will have to step up and contribute in a bigger way than ever.

“Moa is certainly our go-to person up there and she is certainly a person we look to, to create a lot of our offense, so much sometimes that the young players want to get her the ball too quickly,” Matz said.

“I think the younger players on offense need to get more confident and realize that they can create things as well.”

Unlike on the offensive end, Matz sees improvement and solid progression on the defensive side already.

Matz still feels strongly about this team, and he believes that this season still has the potential to be a special one.

“In my opinion we are one of the top four teams in the Atlantic 10. There is no doubt in my mind that towards the end of the year we’re going to be one of the last three or four teams in the A-10. I said that before the season and now I think it’s even more evident,” said Matz.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.