Women’s soccer prepare for the unknown in matchup against Rhode Island

By Arthur Hayden

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

The last time the Massachusetts women’s soccer team played Rhode Island, Brittany Moore scored a hat trick in the Minutemen’s 3-1 victory over the Rams. The problem? Moore isn’t dressing up for UMass this time around.

This Friday, exactly one year since their last match-up, the Minutewomen will travel to Kingston, Rhode Island to renew the rivalry between two of the most senior members of the Atlantic 10 Conference. URI will be looking to break a streak of three straight losses to the Minutewomen; their last victory in the annual match-up came in October of 2010.

Despite UMass’ recent success against the Rams, head coach Ed Matz knows that this isn’t the same team that they faced over the past few years.

“They’re having an exceptional year” said Matz. “They didn’t make the A10 playoffs last year so they have a lot of incentives …We’ve got to be ready for all the intensity that URI is going to bring.”

After a disappointing season last fall, URI has looked like a legitimate playoff threat in 2014. The Rams come into Friday’s match boasting a 9-2-2 record, but they have struggled to maintain that level of success through their first three conference matches. After beating Saint Joseph’s in their A10 opener, the Rams tied George Mason, and then suffered their first loss in over a month to Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday.

UMass’ previous opponent, George Washington did not have a player with multiple goals coming into the match. This week, the Minutewomen (3-6-4, 1-1-1 A10), whose defense has kept them in games throughout the season, will be put to the test against a Rams team which has six players with multiple goals this season.

Sophomore midfielder Nicole Brennan has been the spark plug for the URI offense that has averaged 1.62 goals per game. She is tied for the team lead in goals (five) and leads the team in assists (four), however did not play in the VCU game and the Rams’ offense sputtered scoring zero goals.

URI has plenty of other goal-scorers with Brennan out of the equation. Senior midfielder Samantha Leyh has also tallied five goals this season, including three game-winners, and leads her team with 26 shots, 16 on goal. The Minutewomen defense will most likely be keeping close tabs on her throughout the match.

After splitting time earlier in the season, UMass’ goalkeeper Cassidy Babin has started the last four games for the Minutewomen and has posted the third best save percentage of A10 keepers (0.833 percent). Meanwhile, the Rams have had a bit of a goalkeeper controversy of their own. Sophomore Katie Nickles has been tremendous in seven matches with a 0.854 save percentage, however has continued to split time with senior Lindsey Reilly, who started their most recent against VCU.

In preparation for Friday’s matchup, Matz and the rest of the coaching staff will have to prepare as if Brennan is playing and prepare for both goalies if they want to have a chance of beating URI. Kickoff between the New England rivals starts at 7 p.m.

Arthur Hayden can be reached at [email protected]