UMass defense continues to improve

By Tom Mulherin

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

After a 2-1 victory over Saint Joseph’s Sunday, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team extended its winning streak to three games, marking its longest win streak this season.

The Minutewomen (5-5-1, 1-0 Atlantic 10) seemed to stabilize its season with this streak, reversing its three game losing streak to start the season. In its past five games, UMass has posted a 4-1-0 record.

While the team continues to search for a go-to scorer when the game is on the line, the Minutewomen have used various players play the role of the hero in each game. In its recent five games, UMass has outscored its opponents 8-5. While the team has been winning with an impressive string of goals from the offense, the success of this team has shown to be tied to the performance of the defense, which has allowed just two goals in the past three games.

Through its first six contests, the UMass defense had allowed 12 goals, but the offense only scored six goals in that time, leading to a 1-4-1 record. The defense made it an effort to correct multiple mistakes recently, especially defending set pieces.

“In the past couple of games we had some trouble with corner kicks,” said goalkeeper Danielle Kriscenski following UMass’ 1-0 win over Bryant on Thursday. “It’s not that big of a deal. We learn from our mistakes and then we come back even better.”

Despite opponents generating just a 7 percent success rate on corner kicks against the Minutewomen, set pieces have played a deciding role in three games.

After a game against Brown in which the defense lost 2-1 and allowed two corner kick goals, UMass coach Ed Matz agreed that the defensive struggles against set pieces were a problem. He talked about how the defense lacked determination and sacrifice on such plays, and implied that it might be a defensive weakness.

“We are good from 18-to-18, but we lack a commitment to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to get the ball out.” Matz said.

The past few games have showed an extraordinary improvement on corner kicks however, as the defense have not allowed another set piece goal since the Brown loss. The defense, along with the coach’s attitude toward the set piece plays, has changed.

“I thought [the corner kick defense] was pretty good,” Matz said, following the 1-0 win over Bryant on Thursday. “We gave them a couple chances when the ball came across but we work on it a lot in practice. For the most part now, we’re doing [good].”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]