Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Madison Smith’s position switch provides offensive spark for UMass women’s soccer in win over Brown

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Judith Gibson-Okunieff

A position switch made originally due to injuries ended up playing a key factor for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team in a 1-0 win over Brown University Thursday.

Senior Madison Smith, normally a defender, played an invaluable role for the Minutewomen on the offensive end in their second-straight victory. Despite being held off the scoresheet Thursday, she recorded three shots on goal and remained active on the attack.

Early on in the season, injuries quickly began to pile up for the Minutewomen, leading to the change.

“We just have so many people out up front,” UMass coach Ed Matz said following Thursday’s win.

With a hole in the team’s offensive unit, Matz faced an important decision. To move Smith, one of his best defenders, to the other end of the field was a lineup adjustment that could’ve had adverse effects on the team’s defense.

However, it was apparent early against the Bears that UMass’ defense would be fine, as the Minutewomen were as the Minutewomen’s aggressive play led to their second-straight shutout.

“Madison’s still learning the position, but she’s a senior that moved up from her natural position and she’s been great with the move,” Matz said.

Smith spent some time playing forward for UMass this past summer and said Matz watched her summer tape and decided to consider the idea of switching her position.

When Matz approached Smith about the potential switch to offense, she was initially uncertain.

“I was a little tentative about it at first just because I played defense back as long as I can remember,” Smith said.

For Smith, the transition from protecting her team’s backend to scoring on the other team’s net was “a little uncomfortable at first.”

“Obviously I’m always going to work 100 percent,” Smith said. “You always need to stay positive and that will translate to other girls on the field and translate anywhere you end up.”

Smith worked a lot in practice on being creative with the ball and looking to play less tentatively on offense. Her hard work paid off, as Smith said she’s felt comfortable on the offense end.

“Once I got into the groove of things obviously got a lot a better. I’ve started to get into my fit,” Smith said.

Having quick feet helps too, according to Matz.

“Madison has tremendous speed,” Matz said. “I don’t know too many backs at the Division I level that can stay with her.”

Matz also mentioned how Smith’s speed puts pressure on the opposing defense.

“With her speed out there the defense has to respect that,” said Matz. “Then we can send some little through balls in behind the defense. Once you get the defender running for that. 10 times out of 10 she beats you to the ball.”

Smith added: “I think that it’s helped me a lot when taking players on and being able to beat players while going down the end line and sliding back and the ball through. It is definitely a huge asset. “

Senior captain Georgia Gibson, accustomed to playing next to Smith on defense, didn’t mind the switch and said she’s been a spark for the Minutewomen’s attack.

“Offensively she takes people on and goes to the hole which is exactly what we need,” Gibson said. “She boosts other teammates’ confidence, so I think her being on the offensive line is a huge help.”

Freshman Erin Doster, who scored the game-winning goal for UMass, hasn’t been teammates with Smith for long but has quickly seen how Smith benefits the offense.

“I don’t think (Brown’s) outside backs were expecting such a speedy girl to come at them,” Doster said. “It opens up more opportunities for the rest of us to attack on offense.

“You don’t need to know a lot about soccer to see what having speed adds to the table.”

With Smith’s work ethic and speed, she has found another way to impact the game for the Minutewomen, providing a needed spark for an injury-plagued UMass. The Minutemen are hoping to sustain their newfound success on offense, as they prepare for their next game on Sunday against Harvard.

Sam Pollack can be reached at [email protected]

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