Minutewomen put together goal outburst in Senior Day win

By Jeffrey Okerman

Maria Uminski/Collegian

It wasn’t hard for the seniors to smile after the Massachusetts women’s soccer team dismantled a struggling George Washington team, 4-0, on Senior Day on Sunday afternoon.
But those smiles came with heavy hearts, as the seniors now say goodbye to Rudd Field.

UMass coach Ed Matz was happy that members of his team recognized it’s the seniors, but also kept their “emotions in check” in order to get the win.

“Senior Day is an emotional day,” Matz said. “We didn’t say goodbye, but today is the last time for (our seniors) to play on Rudd Field so it is a very emotional day, but we came out, kept our emotions in check and get a win for those guys.”

Midfielder and senior co-captain Jess Howe saw the win on Senior Day from two angles.

“It is bittersweet, but I’m really happy what we’ve built up as a team to this point,” Howe said. “(This team) is everything. We go nine months, year round, from preseason to these 20 games and we try to make them count, so it is really sad, but is a good way to end.”

After drawing with Charlotte, 1-1, on Friday afternoon, the Minutewomen (8-8-1, 3-3-1 Atlantic 10) celebrated their three seniors before facing the Colonials (4-11-1, 0-7-0 A-10).

Howe and senior goalkeeper Emily Cota started on their Senior Day. Senior backup goalie and Northeastern transfer Stephanie Gordon came on for Cota in the second half.

Matz was full of praise for his graduating players.

“Each of them individually means something different to me,” Matz said.

“I’ve watched Jess Howe here for three years playing in pain. I know each time she practices, each time she steps on the field, she is in a tremendous amount of pain, but she’s never let that get the best of her,” added Matz of Howe, who’s battled through shin injuries.

“Emily last year, and this year, has just been amazing in goal. She’s a leader back there, we can always count on her and we can always rely on her.

“Steph coming into our program has done a great job – her and Emily push each other. She’s done something a lot of players haven’t done, winning a regular season and tournament championship at Northeastern and last year playing in a tournament championship.”

Coming into the weekend, there was a competition for the starting goalkeeper position after Cota was pulled in favor of Gordon in the 2-0 defeat at Temple. Cota was the choice against Charlotte, but both netminders participated on Senior Day. With UMass in control at halftime, Matz made the switch to Gordon.

“They feed off each other, they cheer for each other, and they compete well,” Matz said. “I’m glad I could get both of them in, and I’m glad they could both get a shutout today.”

Though it was the seniors that were spotlighted before the game, it was the underclassmen who made the headlines. Freshman Jackie Bruno opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with assists from sophomores Moa Mattsson and Tori Sousa.

In the second half, sophomore Alyssa D’Arcy scored her first two goals of the season, and Mattsson scored on a penalty kick for her team-leading ninth goal of the season.

D’Arcy was upbeat about her performance, but acknowledged the goal was to win for the seniors in their final home appearance.

“I think I would rate (my performance) pretty well,” D’Arcy said. “But really we were just playing for the seniors, so that was our main goal, just get a win for them. They’ve been a real inspiration. (Getting that win) was great. Probably the best thing ever.”

It was the first time since a 5-0 win over Temple in 2010 that the Minutewomen put more than three goals on the board.

Matz believes this type of performance was building ever since coming back against Charlotte on Friday to steal a point.

“The confidence started against Charlotte when we were down 1-0,” Matz said. “It’s something that we haven’t been able to get a result when we go down a goal and the kids came back and played well. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but to us it is a lot.”

After getting four points from its two weekend games, UMass moved into a tie for seventh place with Rhode Island with 10 points. The Minutewomen have control of their own destiny with just two games remaining as they hit the road traveling first to St. Bonaventure on Friday, then Duquesne on Sunday to wrap up the regular season..

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