Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s soccer open Atlantic 10 play with a draw against Rhode Island

The Minutewomen struggled to get the ball rolling on offense
Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

With only three non-conference games, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team started Atlantic 10 play in a back and forth contest against Rhode Island. With minimal preparation for conference play, UMass (1-2-1, 0-0-1 A-10) struggled offensively against a Rams (0-4-1, 0-0-1 A-10) side that is winless on the season. 

Despite a dominating midfield presence by Jenny Hipp, the Minutewomen couldn’t find the final pass in the offensive third to create any good chances on goal, leading to an eventual 0-0 draw between the two sides. 

“We were quite aggressive early in the game and I don’t think we ever got into the swing of playing with as much of a purpose to keep possession and create our chances,” said UMass head coach Jason Dowiak. “I don’t love that style of play but I think it’s hard when you train a specific way to then try to turn around and abandon that style of play and play some way you’re not prepared to based on your training, to find a lot of success out of it.”

Fatou Barry, who scored and had an assist in last weeks 2-0 win over Stony Brook, was unable to play due to a minor injury. Lauren Bonavita, last year’s leading goalscorer for the Minutewomen, remained on the sideline while she continues to recover from an offseason ankle surgery. These two losses to the UMass side play a huge role in the MInutewomen’s offensive chemistry. 

“Lauren will probably start to see some minutes as early as Sunday,” Dowiak said. “But it will be limited minutes for the first couple of games I would imagine. She still has some way to go with fitness. Barry is doing okay. We’ll have to see. I’m hoping by the Fordham game a week from Sunday, but we don’t want to rush it and this becomes a serious injury where we lose her the rest of the season.” 

At the halftime break, UMass subbed in Bella Mendoza, a freshman goalkeeper who would be making her collegiate debut in an overtime nailbiter against one of the Minutewomen’s rivals. 

“Alyssa [Chase] has been performing well,” Dowiak said. “We want to keep competition in that position. Bella has trained extremely well since arriving in the fall and I felt good about the nature of how the game was going to put her back there and give her minutes today.”

One of Mendoza’s most notable features was her distribution, drop kicking the ball at one point over the heads of both the UMass forwards and Rams back line.

“[Mendoza has] got very good feet, we knew that coming in,” Dowiak said. “I think she was a bit rushed in some of her decisions, playing one touch when we could have kept possession, but when she got a hold of it she gave us a couple great chances with her drop kicks. It’s definitely a threat and we would definitely like to take advantage of it. It’s just fine tuning the quality of it.”

The first real opportunity for either side came six minutes into the second half when Rhode Island forward Francesca D’Agostino got the ball alone at the top of the box with Mendoza 15 yards off her line. D’Agostino missed the opportunity to chip the goalkeeper and ended up hitting the ball wide. 

UMass tried to get the ball rolling on offense through Hipp by finding Minutewomen newcomer Karina Groff on the right wing on numerous occasions. Despite her efforts, there was nowhere for Groff to take the ball to create a dangerous chance for her team. 

Despite these efforts, neither side could gain any sort of rhythm throughout the entirety of the game. With the ball staying primarily around midfield, neither side could string together enough consecutive passes to create many good chances for their team  

“Pretty frustrating day to be honest,” Dowiak said. “I think we came out with great energy, maybe the best energy we’ve had in a long time. I think that we got away from our specific style of play and I think we could have made the game a lot easier for ourselves early on to be able to rest some players that we’d like to rest and reward some players we’d like to reward, but I am very proud of my girls for continuing to battle.“

Kevin Schuster can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @KevinESchuster.

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