Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s soccer looks for a successful season despite injury setbacks

By Adam Aucoin

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Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo


For any coach, there’s nothing worse than seeing your team lose players to injury. For Massachusetts women’s soccer coach Ed Matz, that nightmare has become a reality.

The Minutewomen  (0-3-2) have had their work cut out for them early on in 2015 with several injuries hitting the team, many to key players with returning experience.

For Matz, getting healthy is one of his main goals moving forward in the early portion of the season.

“Having to put people in spots they aren’t fully comfortable in is never an easy thing. It’s hard to find a rhythm like that,” Matz said. “We will be very excited when some of our more offensive minded players come back because that will definitely help us improve.

UMass has employed many different players in key spots in order to fill the roles left by injured players including the team’s top returning goal-scorer Jackie Bruno. According to Matz, Bruno will miss the entire 2015 season with Lyme disease.

Sophomore forward Natalie Perussault will also be sidelined for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Both goalkeeper Danielle Kriscenski and defender Jenny Scro have also missed time this season due to injury. Kriscenski (13) and Scro (18) started in every game they appeared in during the 2014 season.

Scro suffered a strained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and plans to return some time in October, according to Matz.

Sophomore goalkeeper Cassidy Babin has stepped up in place of Kriscenski, allowing three goals through her first four games as a starter while accumulating 15 total saves.

Babin attributes her early success to the defensive corps playing in front of her.

“It all starts with having a strong defense in front of you,” Babin said. “Everyone has contributed defensively. Just having the mindset that you need to defend as a team really helps keeping balls out of the net.”

Matz added he’s been impressed with the group of young players forced to take on larger roles, including Babin, but realizes there is still a lot for them to learn.

“There is a big learning curve and they have jumped right into the fire,” Matz said. “Sometimes they look like a deer in the headlights out there but they are looking for guidance and that will only make them get better.”

UMass added seven new faces to the program this season while it lost only three to graduation last year.

Defense wins championships

Despite the injury troubles the Minutewomen have faced, one group that continues to look strong is the defensive unit.

Coming into the season, the defense was expected to anchor the Minutewomen and have been a lone bright spot through the first handful of games.

Following the Minutewomen’s 6-0 loss to Syracuse in their season opener, UMass has only given up three goals in four games since.

Leading the corps is Atlantic 10 preseason All-Conference team member Rebekka Sverrisdottir.

Sverrisdottir is coming off a season where she was named to the All-Conference first team and started 18 of the Minutewomen’s 19 games in 2014. The Iceland native anchored a backline for UMass that posted six shutouts, three of which came in conference play.

The rest of the defense has a great amount of experience as well, featuring seniors Georgia Gibson and Madison Smith. Junior Megan Burke, who plays forward and Scro are other returning defenders.

Freshman Julia Taffuri and Paige Kozlowski have also seen significant playing time early on due to injuries.

But Matz will be leaning on UMass’ veteran group to keep the Minutewomen afloat early in the season.

“These girls have been through a lot and they are leaders both in practice and on the field,” Matz said. “All of them are versatile and are willing to do whatever they can to make this season successful because for some of them it will be the last time they put on a UMass uniform.”

The road ahead

UMass has not experienced a winning season since 2011 when it won 14 games – the most in Matz’s tenure – and lost in the A-10 championship game as a No. 4 seed to Dayton.

Matz said he isn’t worried about what the record says at the end of the year though. Instead, he said the only thing he cares about is getting UMass into the A-10 tournament.

In his five previous years at the helm of the Mintutewomen, Matz has led them to the playoffs each season.

“We use the month of September to get ready for A-10 play,” Matz said. “I’m more concerned about our record in October, not September, that’s where the games really count.”

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected]

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