UMass women’s soccer suffers major set back with injury to co-captain Jackie Bruno

By Tom Mulherin

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team must replace a significant contributor to the starting lineup in the immediate future.

Co-captain Jackie Bruno suffered an injury to her right foot where a bone abnormality was discovered. Now in a walking boot, Bruno and coach Ed Matz say that she will probably be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Bruno, a forward, serves as the leader of a struggling offense that is composed of mostly sophomores and freshman. In eight games, the offense has been shutout three times and has been held to just one goal in four of those games.

With the offense already having issues in goal production, the last thing the Minutewomen needs is to have one of their top players sidelined for two weeks. Luckily, UMass (2-4-2) is scheduled to have only two games in the next 14 days, with the Atlantic-10 schedule starting on Oct. 3. In the meantime, Matz says that the team’s offense will definitely lose some of its fire that comes from Bruno on the field, and the focus right now is to just get her healthy for A-10 play.

“We’re definitely going to miss her spark,” Matz said. “Jackie can be physical when she wants to be, she can play with a chip on her shoulder, and we’re going to miss that. Right now we’re just trying to make sure she’s healthy for the A-10s, she’s going to be very important for us in October.”

Before the season started, Bruno and junior defender Rebekka Sverrisdóttir were elected co-captains by their teammates after seeing the duo’s leadership skills and determination to get improve during the offseason. Such recognition from her teammates doesn’t go unnoticed by the junior forward, as Bruno says that her election into captainship means a lot to her and she doesn’t want to disappoint her team.

“[Being chosen as captain] was a really huge thing last spring,” she said. “Everybody was up for the position, so no one really knew who it would be. It was really great that the girls noticed how much work I put in on-and-off the field because leading them is definitely a responsibility that I wanted to have. I want to make sure that I’ll be there for them.”

So far this year, Bruno has “been there” for the team by scoring two goals for the Minutewomen, which is second most on the team behind Meghan Burke’s three. Both of those goals have come in crucial moments of the game, as her first goal of the season came against Providence with one second remaining to tie the game and send it into overtime, while the other was the game-winner in double overtime against New Hampshire.

Bruno brings a different dynamic to the team that cannot be replaced by anyone else, and that is her ability to fire up her teammates both on and off the field.. Using that tenacity in her offensive mindset, Bruno and Matz say that her first focus when she touches the ball is to score, whether it comes off her own foot  or by finding one of her teammates who is in a better position to score.

“She has that natural ability, that natural will and desire to score,” Matz said. “She’s got a very strong left foot, and the fact that she scored a goal with one second left in the game, it shows that no matter what she is going to keep playing. No matter what the time or the score, Jackie is only going to play one way – hard.”

Bruno’s contributions to the team have come since day one of her freshman year. While her effort and skill level on the field prove to be huge for UMass day in and day out, her sideline contributions are going to need to be equally as important over the next couple of weeks.

Despite not being with the team on the field, Bruno believes that she has a lot to contribute while she is out. As a captain, she believes that she is a vocal leader, which should transition well over on the sidelines. Whether it’s translating what the coach is saying in an easier way to the younger players to understand, or helping them make adjustments on the field, Bruno has served as a respectable leader. As for what she can do for the team right now, Bruno says that she is just going to be as vocal as she can off the field.

“I love to talk up my team,” she said. “We’re so close, so I’m comfortable with being vocal. I know for a fact that having your teammates support you from the bench is one of the most important things. I’m just going to talk up everyone on the field with positive reinforcement and an extra pair of coaching eyes. I want to be there for my team.”

 Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]