UMass cleans slate with fast start

By Cameron McDonough

Taylor Snow/Collegian

After getting defeated soundly Friday, 4-0, at home against defending Atlantic 10 champion Dayton, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team was in need of a fast start on Sunday against Xavier.

And that’s exactly what it got.

A mere three minutes, 17 seconds into the game, the Minutewomen’s most lethal offensive threat, Moa Mattsson, put her team up 1-0 thanks in large part to an assist from Grace Coombs.

After Xavier committed a foul in the UMass defensive zone, Coombs quickly restarted the ball, which caught the Musketeers by surprise. She played the ball up to Mattsson, who was breaking away from the Xavier defenders. When the ball reached Mattsson, she was all alone and she knew exactly what to do with it after that as she deposited her team-leading sixth goal of the season.

UMass coach Ed Matz saw this play as the “key to the game.”

“I thought the key to the game was the foul in the first half down on their end,” Matz said. “When Grace played it really quick up the Moa and Moa finished that ball so I think that took a lot of pressure off of us.”

Getting off to a good start was the key for a team still upset about its performance against the Flyers on Friday.

“We were extremely upset after the loss to Dayton,” senior defender Jess Howe said. “We have been waiting to play them since the championship last year so we came out on fire. We knew we needed to get three points, so it was definitely in the back of our heads this morning.”

After the game, Matz stressed the importance of the 2-0 win over Xavier as the Minutewomen make a push towards the A-10 playoffs.

“There is no doubt that Dayton is going to be one of the top eight teams,” Matz said. “And probably one of the top two teams in our conference, so playing teams like Xavier and Rhode Island next week, they are the teams we are directly competing with for one of those final eight playoff spots, so whenever you can get points and not allow a team like Xavier to get points, it’s big. Next week’s game is going to be big. Essentially it was a six-point swing because we didn’t give them points today.”

Matz also stressed that winning at the comfortable confines of Rudd Field is equally important.

“And you have to win at home,” Matz said. “It’s huge in our conference. You’ve got to take advantage of the home games.”

Role players step up

Another key theme in UMass’ 2-0 win Sunday at Rudd Field against Xavier was the play it received from its bench.

Five players came off the bench for the Minutewomen in the victory, and contributions specifically from Jen Coppola, Emily Benjamin and Jackie Bruno played critical roles for the Minutewomen in the win.

Coppola and Benjamin each were responsible for UMass’ second goal of the game. Benjamin was credited with the assist when she played a through ball to Coppola, who finished up from there with a goal, her second of the season. Mattsson also was credited with an assist on the goal.

Matz was pleased with the contributions of his bench players against the Musketeers and the energy that they brought.

“I think we had a really good talk yesterday with the team just about how players coming off the bench need to realize their role and they need to bring energy,” Matz said. “They need to come in and change the complexion of the game if they can and they just need to play within themselves.

“I thought all the players that came in with Jackie Bruno, when she came in, and Jen Coppola ended up getting the goal at the end of the game, Emily came in off the bench, the players came in and did a good job and that’s what you need down the stretch, especially in our conference.”

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