UMass women’s soccer controls its own destiny as conference tournament approaches

By Arthur Hayden

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

Through 14 matches, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team’s record isn’t pretty. The Minutewomen are 3-7-4 overall, but more importantly just 1-2-1 in conference play. After a 1-0 loss to Rhode Island on Saturday, UMass is on the outside of the Atlantic 10 playoff picture.

Only the top eight teams in the conference qualify for the A-10 tournament, so the Minutewomen have some work to do over the final four matches of the regular season. That being said, they are only a win out of eighth place, so UMass still controls its own destiny. It’s a fact that coach Ed Matz is well aware of.

“We don’t have to worry about other teams winning and other teams losing,” Matz said.

“Would we like to be 4-0 at the top of the table? Sure … But all we need to do is take care of business ourselves and we’ll make the A-10 playoffs.”

For the Minutewomen, taking care of business involves navigating a relatively tame schedule to end their season. Of the last four opponents UMass faces, only Richmond has a winning record. The Minutewomen will face St. Bonaventure and Duquesne at home, followed by a two-game road trip against the Spiders and Davidson to end the season.

“I think the fact that we have two [matches] at home and two away is appealing to us,” Matz said. “It’s basically in our own hands.”

The numbers indicate opportunity is knocking on UMass’s door. The Bonnies have not won a road match all season, and St. Bonaventure – along with Duquesne and Davidson – averages less than a goal scored per game.

However, the Minutewomen also score at a clip of under one goal per game.

UMass’ strong defense has kept it in matches all season long. If the Minutewomen can find an offensive spark, they face three opponents who are very beatable. Finding that elusive game-winning goal, however, has been easier said than done. An increasingly healthy Jackie Bruno and the rest of the UMass offense will continue to try and translate what they have done in practice to results in crunch time.

“Our defense has played solid all year long,” Matz said. “They give us a chance to win every single game. When you’re giving up a goal a game, you can’t ask for much more than that…We’re able to finish in practice, it’s just a matter of when the game comes, when you have that one second to score, we’re not getting the job done.”

That level of defensive consistency is impressive, considering true freshman Cassidy Babin has assumed goalkeeping duties since redshirt sophomore Danielle Kriscenski suffered an injury earlier in the season.

“She’s certainly doing well,” Matz said of Babin. “She’s progressing. There are some things that we’d like to see her do better. We’d like to see her be a little bit more vocal, but that’s something that’s difficult for a freshman.”

This week, Matz says Kriscenski will be returning to action, possibly to play against St. Bonaventure on Friday, but he did not specify who would get the start in net.

“We have Dani back healthy this week,” said Matz, “(Kriscenski and Babin) are both very talented goalkeepers and I think they make each other better by battling in practice.”

The one bump in the road for the Minutemen could be Richmond. An offensive powerhouse, the Spiders are tied for the A-10 lead in goals scored with thirty on the season, and the bulk of their production has come from two players. Meaghan Carrigan has 11 goals and Ashley Riefner is second on the team with eight. If UMass can keep those two off of the scoreboard, its chances of escaping Richmond, Virginia with at least a point increase significantly.

The Minutewomen begin their quest to reach the other side of the A-10 bubble on Friday at Rudd Field against St. Bonaventure. The match begins at 3 p.m.

Arthur Hayden can be reached at [email protected]