Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Seniors fail to propel UMass women’s soccer into the playoffs

By Jamie Cushman

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Entering the final game of the season needing a win to advance to the conference tournament, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team turned to its senior class to power the team to victory, starting all five members of the team’s senior class.

Ultimately, in a mirror of the season as a whole, UMass and its seniors came close but couldn’t seal the deal. The Minutewomen (6-8-4, 3-5-2 Atlantic 10) fell to Dayton (10-9, 8-2 A-10) Sunday 3-1, ending their season in heartbreak.

The impact of UMass’ experienced starting lineup showed just a few minutes into the game. After intercepting a Dayton pass, senior Breanna Robinson dribbled past another Flyer defender on her way toward the net. But Robinson’s shot ended up going just wide of the net.

After making all of her previous appearances in a reserve role, Robinson was given a chance to start on senior day.

“A lot of coaches choose not to start their seniors on senior day, and I’m just not like that,” UMass coach Ed Matz said. “I gave Breanna a chance and she made the best of it.”

That chance meant a lot to Robinson in what proved to be her final collegiate game.

“It was pretty incredible,” Robinson said. “I knew that I had something to prove, so I came out with everything I had today, and unfortunately we lost, but we gave it everything.”

Later, in the 20th minute, senior Rebekka Sverrisdóttir appeared to save a goal and keep the game scoreless when she knocked the ball off the goal line with a tremendous diving stop. However, her clearance deflected off a teammate’s hand, leading to a penalty kick and the Flyers’ first goal.

“It was a great individual effort to clear that ball off the line,” Matz said. “It was a special play by a very good senior who we’re going to miss and then just a little bit of bad luck with the way the ball bounced.”

In the end, it was the seniors on the other side of the field who determined the outcome of Sunday’s game. The dynamic duo of seniors Nicole Waters and Ashley Campbell accounted for all three of Dayton’s goals.

Waters got Dayton on the board with her penalty kick opportunity in the 20th minute. Fifteen minutes later she scored again, this time converting off a cross from Campbell.

Then, in the 85th minute, Campbell scored her league-leading 16th goal of the season, heading in a pass from Waters.

Matz spoke very highly of the two players after the game.

“Those are arguably number one and number two in our conference for players,” he said. “They’re special players, they’ve been special players throughout their career at Dayton and they’re two players who just connect well and every single time they touch the ball they have the ability to affect the game and make good decisions. They’re just special, special players.”

On a day that began with celebration for the team’s five seniors, it ended in disappointment. After the game, UMass players and coaches reflected on the impact that this year’s senior class had on the program.

Robinson said she was proud of the leadership role that the senior class embraced among the team.

“As seniors we try to encourage the younger girls to play like it’s their last game all the time. It comes quicker than you think,” Robinson said.

She also enjoyed the family atmosphere that the senior class tried to create for the team, recalling one particularly long road trip.

“Traveling with the team brings us together a lot,” Robinson said. “Last year we did a talent show on the bus because we had a really long bus ride, so that was fun. We do a lot of things together as a team.”

Fellow senior Jackie Bruno echoed many of the same sentiments.

“We just always tried to make the underclassman feel welcome, be confident players, and develop into the players they want to be and we’ve always just tried to be there for everybody and make it as enjoyable as possible,” she said.

For Bruno, her favorite memory was an important revenge win in double overtime earlier this year against conference foe La Salle on Oct. 1.

“Coming back from losing to them the prior year in the playoffs, it just showed that we can compete with anybody when we’re on,” Bruno said. “When we come together as a team, we can do anything and that was just a great moment.”

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected].

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