Injuries plague UMass in slow start to 2015 season

By Tom Mulherin

(Collegian file photo)
(Collegian file photo)

Nearly 10 months removed from a disappointing first-round exit in the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament last season, the winless start of the 2015 campaign hasn’t exactly been the turnaround that Massachusetts women’s soccer coach Ed Matz might have been looking for right out of the gate.

Then again, opening the season with four of five games on the road – with one of those road opponents being nationally-ranked (No. 24 Rutgers) – is no easy task for any team. It also doesn’t help when major figures of the team are down from injury when you need them most, and especially when those players aren’t coming back.

Cue Matz’s Minutewomen (0-3-2).

“We’ve been hit very, very hard by injuries,” Matz said when reflecting on the team’s situation. “People have been forced to play in different positions. People have been forced to play a lot of minutes. As we keep progressing, I hope we can get our strength together.”

Entering a five-game home stand where UMass looks to push momentum in its favor, the ailing squad has at least four major injuries that significantly affect the current outlook of the team. Jackie Bruno is done for the year from Lyme disease. Sophomore Natalie Perussault tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the preseason and will miss the remainder of the season. Jackie Miller and Danielle Farano are both coming back from previous ACL injuries, and only time will tell when they will be ready both mentally and physically.

While Matz believes his team is improving its play with each game without these players, it’s tough to deny the tremendous impact these injuries have on the team, especially on the offense. Through the five games played so far, the Minutewomen have managed to score just one time, being shut out in the other four.

“Four out of the five players (injured) are blows to our offense,” Matz said. “When you take that many regular players out of your offense, it puts a lot of pressure on other players. I think that’s what we’ve going through right now.”

“We have our leading scorer (Bruno) out for the year,” he continued. “When you take your leading scorer off the field, someone you would rely on heavily, it’s bound to be a blow to your offense. Natalie started the majority of the games last year, and we were hoping she would be a major contributor. She’s done for the year (too).”

Fortunately for UMass, these injuries don’t affect the defense too dearly, as the squad has allowed multiple goals in one of its first four games. Goalkeeper Cassidy Babin leads the way for the injury-riddled team with her stellar play in the net.

“Babin has been outstanding for us in goal,” Matz said. “She was just ranked in one college soccer tabloid as one of the top-10 goalkeepers as a sophomore in the country. It’s a pretty good honor.”

Outside of the defense, Matz sees strengths in the team despite the obstacles presented in front of them. With key players out, the veteran coach cites his team for having a tremendous bond that he thinks will help them get set straight.

“The main strength of our team is how close we are,” he said. “When the team goes through a lot of injuries, and then we have a couple of calls in very close games that influence the outcome of the game and don’t go our way, it could your team in (self-doubt). We don’t doubt each other, we’re a very close team, and we’re determined to do what it takes.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]