Loss of Megan Burke critical for UMass women’s soccer

By Tom Mulherin

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

The chances of the Massachusetts women’s soccer team making the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament took a massive hit over the past several days, as the ailing squad failed to register more than one point in the standings in its last two conference matchups.

The Minutewomen (6-6-4, 3-3-2 A-10) sit on the outside of the playoff picture, as they are currently ninth place, while only the top eight teams make the postseason. If the season were to end before Thursday’s upcoming game against Saint Joseph’s, UMass would fall short of extending its season. With only two more games left on the schedule, UMass is stuck in a spot where it needs not only to win at least one of those games, but is also depending on some other teams ahead of them to lose.

To make matters worse for coach Ed Matz’s group, the weekend also saw one of the Minutewomen’s key starters suffer an injury.

Within the first six minutes of a 1-0 loss to Duquesne last Thursday, UMass forward Megan Burke left the game with a serious knee injury. While the exact details of the ailment are still unclear, Matz isn’t confident that she will return by the end of the season, and has already ruled her out for the final two games of the regular schedule.

“She went down awkwardly on her knee and her knee buckled,” he said. “We don’t know the results yet because she hasn’t gotten an MRI, but it’s a significant knee injury.”

Burke had started all 15 games leading up to her injury against Duquesne, which includes four contests where she played the entirety of the match. Her three goals and two assists on the year make her the team’s leading scorer, and she is one of the Minutewomen’s most valuable pieces on offense.

Needless to say, a player of her caliber will be missed while UMass battles for a spot in the A-10 Tournament.

“It’s never great when you lose a player like her,” Matz said. “Not only is she our leading goal-scorer, but she does so much else for us. It’s a tough thing that we’re going to have to try to find a way to overcome.”

With the potential for Burke to miss the rest of her junior campaign, the Minutewomen are now in a situation where they will need to make up for the loss of a key offensive figure. History says that the task won’t be an easy one, as UMass went through a similar predicament earlier in the year with the loss of senior forward Jackie Bruno. Although the Minutewomen have seen success lately with the play of its offense ever since Bruno came back, it proves that the unit needs to be at full strength in order to excel.

Matz doesn’t think just one player on the roster could fill in the void of its top scorer. Instead, he’s depending on the entire team to work together in order to keep an offensive rhythm to win the next couple of games.

“(Megan) does so much for our team that no one player is going to replace all of her production on defense and on offense,” he said. “I look at two or three players on our bench that will get increased playing time, and [we’ll] maybe run a little longer with our starters.”

“It’s just a matter of doing things as we’ve done all year long, doing things as a team,” he added. “It’s a matter of all us stepping up in these last two games, and getting a little better. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]