UMass women’s soccer hits the road looking to solidify Atlantic-10 playoff position

By Adam Aucoin

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

2015 has been a year of positives for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team.

Despite being hit hard by injuries early in the season, the team has come together to have one of the better seasons in head coach Ed Matz’s tenure at the school.

Balanced offense? Check.

Strong defense? Check.

Good record at Rudd Field? Check.

The one box that UMass (6-5-3, 3-2-1 Atlantic-10) cannot check off is the one reserved for success on the road.

For the second straight year, the team has struggled on the road, going 0-4-1 in games away from Rudd Field this season.

The Minutewomen now embark on their final road trip of the season, which consists of three games against A-10 opponents.

The first of the three games comes Thursday against Duquesne (7-8, 2-4 A-10).

The Dukes are coming off a game Sunday against Saint Joseph’s where they lost 1-0 on a penalty kick by Hawks midfielder Emily Gingrich in the 67th minute.

Offensively, Duquesne rallies around freshman forward Katie O’Conner and sophomore forward Malea Fabean, who have five and four goals respectively. Sophomore midfielder Linnea Faccenda is also one to keep an eye on, as she has three goals and three assists on the season for the Dukes.

Matz believes his veteran defense is up for the challenge of slowing down these offensive threats.

“Our seniors are very competitive and focused on winning, so I know they will be up for the challenge,” Matz said. “They always cover for each other and if their players get past the backline, hopefully Cassidy is on her game.”

Duquesne has been strong at home this season with a 5-3-0 record at Rooney Field.

Matz is cognizant of this fact and that his team has struggled on the road, but hopes the team can finally break through on Thursday.

“We are looking for the girls to play the same type of game on the road as they would at Rudd.” Matz said. “If we can come out and put a lot of pressure on them early, I think we can find some success.”

An encouraging sign for UMass has been the offensive surge the team has seen the last few games.

In their last two games, the team has scored a combined eight goals, four apiece against Rhode Island and Davidson.

Matz has loved the balanced scoring he has seen from the team recently.

“Having eight goals scored by eight different players is always good for the balance of the team,” Matz said. “When you play like that, the opposition can’t just focus on one player. In our pregame film, we will stress to everyone the need to step up Thursday.”

The team has scored 19 goals on the season and the only person who has more than two goals is forward Megan Burke, who has three. Six other players on the Minutewomen have two goals.

UMass currently sits in sixth place in the A-10 with four games remaining on the season. If the playoffs were to start today, it would make it, as the top eight teams in the conference qualify for the conference tournament.

The Minutewomen can’t be too comfortable sitting in that position though because the third place and 12th place teams are only separated by two games in the standings,

“The A-10 tournament is always the goal at the start of the season,” Matz said. “If we don’t find ways to win on the road, there is no way we will have success if we make it there. I think it’s pretty important that we win at least two of the last four games.”

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.