Massachusetts Daily Collegian

With critical first win under its belt, healthy UMass women’s soccer prepares for midseason test

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

For the Massachusetts women’s soccer team, the 2017 regular season didn’t exactly get off to the start that they would have hoped for.

After posting two wins in exhibition play in matches over Vermont and Albany, the Minutewomen (1-3-0) entered the start of the regular season only to run into a number of immediate headaches.

In the regular season opener and home opener, the University of Massachusetts roster had, “more players in red shirts than were actually available to play,” said coach Ed Matz.

After finally securing their first win of the season vs. Maine in overtime on Sunday night, the Minutewomen now have a shot to turns things around before Atlantic 10 conference play starts on Sept. 21.

Going down 1-0 to the Black Bears early in the match, UMass remained in the deficit until the 81st minute when a dazzling goal by junior Erin Doster evened the score at one.

According to Matz, “with going down early and the conditions, it was a game that we could have easily put our heads down and gone to a lot of built in excuses as to why the system wasn’t working.”

But the Minutewomen didn’t do that; in fact, they did quite the opposite.

After changing the offensive formation and almost immediately tying the match a minute later, the team was able to grab the momentum heading into overtime.

Just two minutes into extra time, UMass found the golden goal as Salma Anastasio slammed in a rebound off a shot from the foot of teammate Hrefna Petursdottir.

With the Minutewomen’s entire roster healthy for the first time all season, the team was finally able to come together and score more goals in 15 minutes than they had throughout the entire first three matches.

With just over two weeks to go before the start of conference play, the Minutewomen face four contests that could ultimately shape their entire season going forward.

UMass will be facing off with Delaware (Sept. 8), Holy Cross (Sept. 10), Brown (Sept. 14) and Yale (Sept. 17), all of which will be played home at Rudd Field.

After its 0-3 start to the season due to injuries and NCAA clearance issues, UMass now sits in a position to write its own destiny and determine what kind of team it will be heading into conference play.

Among UMass’ unavailable players to start the season was the 2016 leading scorer, Gabriela Kenyon.

The senior forward suffered a broken nose during exhibition play and sat out the first match of her fourth and final season with the team.

Although Kenyon only missed the opener, a 3-0 loss to Central Connecticut, the Minutewomen would go on to drop the next two matches against Stony Brook and Vanderbilt, 2-0 and 3-1 respectively.

In those matches, the senior was wearing a protective facemask to make sure she would not re-injure her nose and according to Matz, it seemed to have a profound effect on her.

“For soccer that’s so difficult because the ball is at your feet, it’s hot and it messes with your peripherals,” Matz said. “When she lost the mask last Thursday and was cleared to go out without it, you just saw a different player.”

Notably on the attack along with Kenyon has been Doster, the junior from Okemos, Michigan.

Through the first four matches of the season, Doster holds claim to two of the three UMass goals thus far.

The junior’s first tally of the season came in the first minute of play when UMass hosted Vanderbilt in a 3-1 loss. Her equalizer in the 81st minute against Maine set the team up on a path to victory.

Now healthy and moving forward, Matz sees things really coming together for the Minutewomen in the near future.

“I’m excited for this week of practice,” he said. “I think as we continue to grow this continuity with our players in practice, we’re just gonna continue to develop and get better and better.”

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

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