UMass and URI set to battle on Saturday

By Cameron McDonough

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Taylor Snow/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team welcomes Rhode Island to Rudd Field on Saturday with the Rams still looking for their first conference win.

Rhode Island (7-5-1, 0-2-0 Atlantic 10) is coming off a 7-2 loss to Dayton on Sunday.

UMass coach Ed Matz is on high alert going into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game.

“I think that not only is Rhode Island a very good team, they’re a very hungry team,” Matz said. “Their backs are against the wall. They don’t want to start 0-3, so I think it’s a very dangerous game for us.”

The Rams are a team that’s also competing directly with the Minutewomen for one of the eight playoff spots in the A-10, making this game especially critical for UMass (6-6-0, 1-1-0 A-10) if it’s to return trip to the playoffs.

In order to pull out a win, Matz said his team needs to match Rhode Island’s intensity.

“We have to make sure that we’re the team that’s more hungry,” Matz said. “One team is going to have a lot easier path to the playoffs after Saturday’s match.”

History shows the Minutewomen are going to need a fast start if they want to come out of Saturday’s game with a victory in hand,

UMass is 6-0 this season when it scores first and 0-6 when it allows the first goal.

“I thing it’s important to come out prepared to get that first goal is huge, especially for us,” Matz said.

The way this Minutewomen team creates early opportunities begins with sound defensive play.

The unit – led by senior goalkeeper Emily Cota and starting defenders junior Lauren Skesavage and freshmen Georgia Gibson, Madison Smith and Rebekka Sverrisdottir – continues to be a focal point for this team.

Together, the Minutewomen have kept their opponents to a 1.17 goals-against average, which ranks sixth in the A-10. And when the ball does get by the defense, the UMass goalkeepers are there to back their teammates up with a conference-leading 8.08 saves per game.

Despite its strong play, Saturday won’t be an easy task for the UMass defense to contain URI.

The Rams have two prolific scoring threats in senior forward Ashley Evangelista and junior forward Jennifer Barrientos.

Evangelista leads the Rams with five goals and 12 points on the season, but Barrientos isn’t far behind with her four goals and 11 points, along with a team-leading three assists.

Matz said the Minutewomen’s defensive play is key to the team’s success not only on Saturday, but for the rest of the season.

“I think we’ve established ourselves this year as a team that needs our defense to come out,” Matz said. “We need our defense to play well. Everything we do in the game kind of focuses around our defense. So hopefully we will come out, we’ll be aggressive on defense and we’ll win a lot of balls on defense.”

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