Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jackie Bruno makes unexpected return in UMass’ win Thursday

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Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team saw something it thought would never see again in Thursday’s 1-0 double overtime win over La Salle: senior Jackie Bruno checking into the game.

In her first match since being told in early September she had to miss the remainder of her senior season due to Lyme disease, the fourth-year player logged a total of 46 minutes in her natural position at forward and recorded one shot.

Bruno got some playing time in extra minutes but didn’t play the second overtime period in order to limit her workload. While the team notched the winning goal without her on the field, she said she was just happy to play again.

“I’ve been in this program for four years and I want to go out with (the team),” she said. “Just being out there with the team and doing anything I can, even if it’s on the sidelines, is great. I love it.”

When news came out that Bruno’s Lyme disease prognosis would be season-ending, she was devastated. Coming off a six-goal 2014 season, the Minutewomen’s leader on offense appeared to have her last year of eligibility taken away by a tiny tick bite that she didn’t even know about at first. However, she maintained a positive attitude and cheered on her team in the hopes that she would make a quick recovery.

That original prognosis was then proved false in a matter of weeks as Bruno was unexpectedly given another chance to play for UMass.

“There’s just been a lot of misdiagnoses,” Bruno said. “Everything was up in the air. I was being held back and then I started feeling healthy. My trainers see that and my doctors see that, so they gave me the go-ahead to practice and I felt strong enough to make an appearance to the field (Thursday).”

For the first few games without Bruno, the Minutewomen (4-3-2, 1-0 Atlantic 10) struggled mightily on offense with only one goal through their first five games of the regular season. Before Thursday’s game against the Explorers, Bruno only appeared in one game against New Hampshire on Aug. 23.

Bruno’s presence alone makes an impact on the Minutewomen’s offensive unit, according to UMass coach Ed Matz. In 59 games played for UMass over four years, Bruno has recorded 11 goals and three assists. Last season, she led the Minutewomen in goals (six), points (12) and shots (40), which were all career-highs.

Following Thursday’s game, Matz said Bruno still needs a little more time before she reaches her top level of play. However, he added that he has no doubt that Bruno will continue to improve and make a considerable impact on UMass’ attack in the second half of the regular season.

“She’s a little rusty,” Matz said. “She’s not as quick on the ball as she has been, but it’s a 10-game season now. So she’s going to get better and better and mark my words, she’ll score a couple of good goals for us between now and the A-10 (tournament).”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]

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