Positives in chances created, but more goals needed

By Jeffrey Okerman

As the Massachusetts women’s soccer team begins to roll into the heart of the Atlantic 10 conference schedule, goals will come at a higher premium as teams fight to cement themselves as playoff contenders.

Taylor Snow/Collegian

The Minutewomen (6-6, 1-1 A-10) have already shown in the early stages of the season that converting opportunities into goals is a difficult task. In last weekend’s 2-0 win over Xavier, UMass had 15 shots in the opening half and a season-high 24 for the game. However, despite several goal-scoring chances, the Minutewomen only led at the break by a goal.

But UMass coach Ed Matz sees little cause for concern, despite the inability to convert on scoring chances.

“I think the biggest thing on Sunday was that their goalie made three outstanding saves,” Matz said. “She just got her fingertips on the ball, and was able to deflect or redirect it. There were three legitimate chances.

“But I’m happy with the fact that we created those chances, and we’re still working hard, because those are chances that they will finish as (the season continues).”

Of the five forwards that saw game action for the Minutewomen on Sunday, junior Brittany Moore was the lone upperclassman among them. But Matz believes that as his players become more experienced, they will be more “comfortable” in front of the goal with those chances.

“(Finishing is) something that just happens naturally,” Matz said. “Where they have composure in front of goal and they finish, some people just get in the right spots, and some people just have a knack for finishing. A lot of those chances we’re missing now, next year, or the year after, they’re going to finish them.

“To me, the biggest thing is that we keep creating those chances, that’s a positive for me.”

Moa Mattsson has been UMass’ bright spot on the goal-scoring charts this season, racking up six goals over 12 games from 17 shots on target.  After her is Jen Coppola, who grabbed her second goal of the season when she clinched the win against Xavier on Sunday.

The Minutewomen will need to find success in front of goal from other forwards players, if they have eyes for a run that’s akin to last year’s A-10 tournament run.

“I think there are four or five players, while they may not get nine or 10 goals, other than Moa, who have the potential to score three or four goals,” Matz said. “And that will make us a hard team to play, because we have the potential of a lot of people scoring.”

Among those players are Coppola, as well as freshman Jackie Bruno and sophomore winger Tori Sousa, who had four goals and four assists in the 2011 campaign. Moore has also been played on the wings more frequently this season.

“If each of those players can finish with three to four goals then that can be 12 to 16 goals, so that is not bad to have,” Matz said. “Hopefully that can happen, and it wouldn’t be a bad time for that to happen down the stretch for us.”

The single weekend game with Rhode Island could prove to be a tough match to grab a couple of confidence building goals.

After a disappointing 2011 season which saw the Rams (7-5-1, 0-2 A-10) finish 7-10-2, Rhode Island came out on fire to open the season this year, winning six of its first nine games. However, the first weekend of conference play put a damper on that run, when the team lost first to Xavier, 1-0, and then got blown away by Dayton, 7-2. Even after that blowout, though, URI still boasts a positive goal differential, 22-21.

Matz knows this weekend’s game will be no walkover.

“I think Rhode Island is very good this year, and they have started off 0-2 (in conference play) so they desperately need a win,” Matz said. “It is important for us to make sure they don’t get points on our field, because that could be a six point swing if we get three and Rhode Island doesn’t.”

This is the only match for the Minutewomen this weekend, and Matz believes the rest and extra practice afforded by having just one game is very valuable.

“I think there is more value in the one extra day we have to prepare,” Matz said. “Not having to play Friday means we can practice on Friday, that one extra day of preparation or rest for some kids.”

The match against URI is set to kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Rudd Field.

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