Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s soccer rallies to earn draw against VCU

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Some key coaching moves helped power a comeback for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team Sunday as it overcame a 2-0 deficit in the second half to earn a much-needed point on the road against Virginia Commonwealth.

The Minutewomen salvaged a 2-2 draw Sunday against second place VCU to move to ninth place in the Atlantic 10 standings with two games left in the regular season.

The Rams (8-7-2, 6-1-1 A-10) utilized their home field advantage and jumped out to an early lead, pressuring UMass and tallying two goals off deflections in the first half. At halftime the Minutewomen (6-6-4, 3-3-2 A-10) switched to a 4-4-2 formation.

“We were hoping to put a little more pressure on VCU and energize our team, and it worked,” UMass coach Ed Matz said. “We came out and played incredibly well in the second half. I can’t be happier with the way we played in the second half.”

Another important halftime move was the insertion of freshman defender Paige Kozlowski into the lineup. Kozlowski was forced to play out of her normal position, moving up front in order to replace injured junior Megan Burke.

After sitting out the entire first half, Kozlowski’s presence was felt almost instantly as she scored the first Minutewomen goal of the day in the 48th minute, just over two minutes into the half.

After intercepting a VCU pass, Kozlowski dribbled a long distance before converting her breakaway into a goal for her first of her collegiate career.

Matz said he was pleased with Kozlowski’s instant energy as well as the poise the freshman showed following a lengthy run.

“Sometimes when you have that many yards to cover, you start to think about your shot a little bit too much, but Paige did a great job, just placed the ball right in the corner,” Matz said. “It was a very good, well-composed shot, especially for a freshman.”

Carried by the momentum of its first goal, a UMass set piece led to the game-tying goal just five minutes later in the 53rd minute, scored by senior Rebekka Sverrisdóttir who finished off a loose ball in front of the net.

In addition to a good delivery from junior Danielle Alvarez, junior Julia Weithofer made a nice save along the end line to give Sverrisdóttir a chance to score.

“It was set up by a very nice set piece by Danielle Alvarez and just a lot of heart and commitment by our players to finish it,” Matz said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Cassidy Babin was solid once again in net for the Minutewomen. Neither of VCU’s goals were easy save opportunities for Babin, as both shots were deflected in front of her, leaving her out of position to make a save.

Babin made a number of important saves in the second half, including a tough stop on junior Tori Burress coming just minutes after UMass tied the game.

Next week marks the end of regular season action, meaning spots in the conference tournament will be up for grabs. The Minutewomen enter the final week of play trailing George Mason and Duquesne by  one point and La Salle by two.

The top eight teams in the conference will earn bids to the A-10 conference tournament, hosted by Davidson Nov. 5-8.

The Minutewomen will face two tough opponents next week as they try to clinch a spot. UMass will go on the road to face fourth-place Saint Joseph’s Thursday night before wrapping up the season at home Sunday afternoon against third-place Dayton.

“We’ve got to get some points in these last couple of games to ensure that we get into the A-10’s,” Matz said.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]

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