UMass women’s soccer falls to George Mason in overtime Thursday

By Jamie Cushman

Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian
Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

The best players rise to the occasion in the biggest moments. On Thursday night, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team learned the hard way why Sarah Hardison is one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 conference.

Just 61 seconds into overtime, George Mason’s leading scorer got open on a corner kick before striking a shot into the top left corner of the net, securing a 2-1 victory for the Patriots and ending UMass’ five-game unbeaten streak.

“They have a special player,” UMass coach Ed Matz said. “We didn’t do a great job of picking her up, she got free for just a second in overtime on the corner kick, and that’s what special players do.”

Her eighth goal of the season, the junior now ranks second in the conference in goals scored.

After a scoreless first half in which George Mason (6-5, 2-1 A-10) held the advantage in possession time, the Minutewomen (4-4-3, 1-1-1 A-10) broke through to take an early lead in the first minute of the second half.

Senior Jackie Bruno scored an unassisted goal from a tough angle to beat George Mason goalkeeper junior Kristen Glad with a shot to the bottom left corner of the net. After battling Lyme disease earlier in the season, Thursday’s tally marked Bruno’s first goal of the season.

“One of the things that Jackie looks to do every time she touches the ball is shoot,” Matz said.

Bruno led the team with six goals last season, and the Minutewomen are hoping Thursday’s goal will help kickstart Bruno’s offense.

Despite getting out to an early lead in the second half though, UMass surrendered the next two goals.

“It’s great that we scored shortly into the second half, but it’s one of those things, it’s great to score and it’s great to be up, but I looked at the clock and was like, ‘Wow there’s a lot of time left in the second half.”

George Mason took advantage of the flanks for its equalizing goal. In the 81st minute, sophomore Erin Mitchell dribbled down the left side of the field before firing off a cross towards a group of players in front of the net.

UMass goalkeeper Cassidy Babin dove for the pass, but couldn’t haul the shot in. Freshman Nia Elbeck took possession among a scrum of defenders and quickly deposited a shot into the wide open net, securing the first goal of her collegiate career.

Besides Bruno, Gabriella Kenyon also stood out for the Minutemen in their loss. Coming on as a substitute, Kenyon used her fresh legs to impact the game in her 41 minutes.

“She provided a tremendous amount of spark for us,” Matz said. “She created a lot of opportunities for us and put a lot of pressure on George Mason.”

All three of UMass’ A-10 games have lasted into overtime, leading to a 1-1-1 record for the Minutewomen so far in conference play.

“The parity is very, very close in the A-10,” Matz said. “Maybe a little home field advantage helped George Mason tonight.”

UMass continues its A-10 road schedule Sunday with a visit to George Washington. Undefeated in the conference and on a six-game winning streak, the Colonials are tied with Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton for the top spot in the A-10.

“On paper, if you’re looking at the games, based on past years you might think (Thursday’s) game was the easier game,” Matz said. “But we ended up losing this one…and now we have our work cut out for us on Sunday.”

The Minutewomen’s second A-10 road matchup of the season will kick off at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]