Minutewomen look for improved offense, steady defense in A-10 play

By Tom Mulherin

(Collegian file photo)
(Collegian file photo)

It’s that time of the year again for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team.

After struggling in the first half of their season, the Minutewomen (2-5-3) are set to begin the Atlantic 10 conference portion of the schedule with their sights set on another conference tournament berth. But making the tournament will be no easy feat.

In its past four games – all of them on the road – UMass struggled to gain any momentum heading into conference play. The Minutewomen finished the road trip without a win and failed to score a goal in any of those games. UMass was shut out in five of its last six games, as its season-long offensive slump continued. Offensive struggles have plagued the team thus far, as they have yet to win a game in regulation.

On the other hand, the Minutewomen defense has performed admirably to make up for an offense that can’t find its groove. With the exception of a 5-0 loss on the road to Connecticut, no opponent has scored more than two goals against UMass. Still, on several occasions, coach Ed Matz has said the defense needs to improve to reach full potential, and hopefully it would do so by the A-10 part of the schedule.

With their defensive play already strong, the Minutewomen hope an even better effort from the back line will power them through to the postseason. UMass is banking on the return of senior co-captain Jackie Bruno to inject some life into the offense. She’s missed the past two weeks with a foot injury and is set to return soon. Matz has said that Bruno has the ability to light a fire under the offense, and the team is counting on her to do just that.

Conference play represents a chance for the Minutewomen to bounce back after a tough start to the season. They’ve faced a tough schedule, including games against UConn, James Madison and Cornell. UMass has also been on the road for seven of their first 10 games, and a return to the friendly confines of Rudd Field for four games in the next three weeks should mean improved performance.

There are multiple angles to lean upon to explain the team’s trying first half. But when it comes down to it, the defense has played tremendously throughout the season, and the offense is sure to start putting more balls in the net. With A-10 conference play drawing close, you can be sure that Matz is going to do the best he can to get the offense going. Ultimately, though, only time will tell how the Minutewomen respond to the pressure of conference play.

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]