Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Anastasio receives A-10 POW honors, UMass preparing for Delaware on Friday

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff / Daily Collegian)

On the heels of its first victory of the 2017 regular season, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team is back in Amherst preparing to face off with Delaware (2-2-1) on Friday.

After starting the season scoring only a single goal in three matches, the Minutewomen (1-3-0) found their rhythm offensively late on Sunday and got a win they desperately needed.

Fueled by a late assist to equalize and a golden goal in extra time by senior Salma Anastasio in the 2-1 overtime victory against Maine, UMass scored more in the final minutes on Sunday than it had throughout the entire season.

According to Anastasio, the win on the road in the rain was one that the Minutewomen had to have.

“Getting that win really boosted our confidence and I think we really needed that moving forward,” Anastasio said. “We were kind of down on ourselves, just trying to fight every game. We looked promising every game but couldn’t get the ball in the back in the net.”

That trend held true for nearly 80 minutes of the Maine match, after the Minutewomen conceded a goal in the opening minute.

However, in the 81st minute, the offense was finally able to break through and get on the board. Assisted by Anastasio, a strike from junior Erin Doster found its way to the back of the net and tied the match at one.

Anastasio, a senior transfer forward from Clemson in her second season with the team, wasn’t done, and as neither team was able to net a goal in the remainder of the half, overtime began.

Just two minutes in, Anastasio made her presence felt again, this time in a much bigger way by scoring the winning  goal and granting UMass its coveted first win.

After having a rough start to the season and enduring the frustrations of minimal scoring opportunities, Anastasio credited Sunday’s win to the team’s work ethic and continual grit.

“It seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t there, and then we finally hit a breakthrough, held on and kept pushing and pushing,” she said.

For her efforts in the match against Maine, Anastasio was awarded with the Atlantic-10 Offensive Player of the Week award.

When asked about her recognition from the conference, the Connecticut native was humble in acceptance.

“It’s a great honor,” she said. “I really appreciate it.”

But the senior wasn’t so quick to take all of the credit for her achievements in the match and immediately attributed a lot of the acknowledgment to her teammates.

“Without my team, it wouldn’t have been possible,” she said. “They got the ball to the box and we got the win together.”

A teammate most notably deserving of recognition for her efforts to keep UMass in the match was senior goalkeeper Cassidy Babin. Through four matches, the Virginia native has logged a total of 361 minutes in net and stopped 27 of the 58 shots that have come her way. If it weren’t for Babin’s efforts in keeping the deficit to one, Anastasio’s performance on Sunday might not have even mattered.

“[Babin’s] been great,” Anastasio said. “She’s a real commander back there and a big voice for us, something that we really need on the back line.”

“She really takes charge and holds it together,” she continued. “We really appreciate her back there.”

With its first win of the season now in hand, UMass currently finds itself in the midst of a week of practice, looking to continue what Anastasio outlined in Sunday’s match.

“We just have to keep practicing like we want to play,” she said. “We want to play hard, so if we come out in practice and act like it’s a game that will translate into what we bring onto the field.”

With just four matches to go before the start of A-10 conference play on the 21st, when Davidson comes to town, the time is now for the Minutewomen to make a move on the season and really improve as a unit.

“We just can’t let up,” Anastasio said. “We have to stay on the gas pedal.”

 Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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