Minutewomen open tournament with finals rematch

By Jeffrey Okerman

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

When the dust settled on the final day of regular season play, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team found itself tied for seventh-place in the Atlantic 10 standings with both Charlotte and Richmond.
However, to the delight of the Minutewomen (9-9-1, 4-4-1 A-10), the Spiders were the odd ones out of the eight-team playoff.

Now with a playoff spot secure, there is no looking back.

When the Atlantic 10 Championship begins in Rhode Island on Thursday, seventh-seeded UMass will square off with Dayton at 5 p.m.

In 2011, it was the Flyers  who ended the Minutewomen’s hopes with a 5-1 win in the 2011 championship match.

Forward Moa Mattsson believes that the team’s recent experiences against Dayton could be in UMass’ favor.

“Any time you make the playoffs that means you have done something good, something right this season,” Mattsson said. “Playing Dayton is a challenge, but I believe that those results we had with them are in our advantage because we really, really want it.”

UMass coach Ed Matz doesn’t believe the low seed will deter his team, who as the fourth seed in the 2011 tournament ousted No. 1 La Salle in the semifinal.

“We looked back at what we did last year against La Salle so we know it can be done,” Matz said. “We know that Dayton is a different challenge, but La Salle also had its challenge. I think last year’s win gives us the inspiration, motivation and knowledge that it can be done.”

The Minutewomen are also familiar with the current Dayton (13-4-1, 7-1-1 A-10) squad, having been beaten 4-0 at Rudd Field to open the A-10 conference schedule. The Flyers were in the drivers seat from the first whistle, taking 28 shots to UMass’ 10.

The result hasn’t discouraged the Minutewomen, or Matz, who believes his team benefits from having fresh film of their opposition.

“We just watched a portion of the Dayton game in the locker room before practice,” Matz said. “One of the things we wanted the players to take from the video is that Dayton made a lot of mistakes in the game against us. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of, and we know those opportunities are going to present themselves on Thursday. We just have to be in a better position to take advantage of them.”

The Minutewomen roll into the playoffs looking ready to take advantage of their opportunities, having scored nine goals in their last two wins.

UMass put four past George Washington and five against Duquesne. Mattsson, who finished the regular season tied for second in the A-10 with 11 goals, has added three in the last three games.

The wingers have also been getting on the score sheet more regularly as the regular season has come to a close. Jackie Bruno and Alyssa D’Arcy have both scored a pair over the last three games, while Tori Sousa contributed her first tally of the season in the 5-2 win over the Dukes.

However, Matz recognizes the potency of the Flyers’ attacking threat.

“Dayton is the type of team that if you give them opportunities, if you give them a little bit of a chance then they will capitalize on them,” Matz said.

Forward Colleen Williams topped the A-10 conference in both goals (18) and assists (12) throughout the season. Joining Williams at the top of the scoring charts are her teammates Ashley Campbell and Juliana Libertin who have both tallied 11 goals this season with Libertin also adding 11 assists.

Each scored against UMass in the regular season win, but Matz singled out Williams for praise.

“Colleen Williams is one of the best players in the A-10,” Matz said. “She will probably go down as one of the best players to ever play in the A-10. We have to focus on her. We have to formulate a game plan that will neutralize some of her talents on the field.”

As the season edges towards a close, it is all hands on deck for the Minutewomen. With the winner of the quarterfinal match slated to play another 90 minutes the very next day, fitness and energy levels will be crucial for all teams involved. However, Matz isn’t overly worried, citing his team’s excitement for the opportunity at hand and the drive to challenge for the conference title.

“I don’t think we have to prepare them, or get them ready as far as the shortness (between games) goes,” Matz said. “They’re excited, they’re pumped up.”

The winner of Thursday’s match will meet the winner of the No. 3/No. 6 matchup between Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Joseph’s.

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