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 secures its first win of the season against Stony Brook

The Minutewomen relied on their veterans and newcomers alike in a 2-0 victory
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team has been through it all in regard to postponements and cancellations at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic. UMass (1-1) was set to kick off its regular season on Feb. 14, however a rise in COVID cases led to an eventual three-week postponement which gave the Minutewomen that much more anticipation and stress on if the season would really come to fruition.

“It was day by day,” UMass head coach Jason Dowiak said. “It was tough not knowing if we would be allowed to go back on the field each day. The players have really managed to be incredibly diligent, taking care of what they need to, and resilient in the different changes to our schedule that we’ve had to go through.”

After working out some kinks in their season opening loss to St. John’s, the Minutewomen got the ball rolling with a 2-0 win over Stony Brook in their second game of an untraditional spring season.

“To get a win in our first home game is special for us because it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play a game period,” Dowiak said. “Finally getting back into it is almost surreal.”

The Sea Wolves (0-2) put on the pressure early in the first half shooting with more quantity than quality, reaching the gloves of UMass goaltender Alyssa Chase on only three of their 11 shots. The Minutewomen seemed to completely reverse the tone coming out of the halftime locker room, controlling all aspects of the ball in the final 45 minutes of play.

“We were a little slow in the first half to get into the best possible positions,” Dowiak said. “Our style of play only really works if our players are timing their movements, timing our runs to get into those supportive positions so we really just adjusted where we felt we needed to be to break up that pressure. I think we came out in the second half and the girls were just like, ‘let’s go, let’s put this game away early,’ and their speed of play went through the roof.”

Senior Fatou Barry, who has played a vital role in UMass’ fight against racial injustice, secured a new role on the field as leader of the Minutewomen’s offense. Starting this season at forward, in contrast to her strong defensive presence the last few seasons, Barry found herself on the scoresheet twice, in the way of one goal and one assist. Barry scored early in the second half with a perfectly timed one-touch shot at the back post, doubling the Minutewomen’s lead which quickly closed the window of opportunity for Stony Brook to mount a comeback.

“I honestly feel like we are more prepared than we could ever be,” Barry said. “We came back in the fall with the mindset that we’re just going to work. We don’t care that there are no games right now, there will be games in the future. We put that work in and it’s fun to see that finally pay off.”

Barry provides not only an attacking presence for UMass but plays a pivotal role as a leader for the team. Being one of the oldest and most experienced veterans, Barry will help many of UMass’ incoming freshmen develop under Dowiak’s system.

“We have a pretty young team and it’s all about getting them comfortable and executing our game plan,” Barry said. “I’m comfortable with everybody on the team and I trust their abilities, they trust mine, so it’s all about going out there and playing as a family.”

Recording the Minutewomen’s first goal of the season and the first goal of her collegiate career, freshman Ella Curry slotted home a shot off of an assist from Barry just 15 minutes into the game. In only her second game on the field, Curry’s comfortability provides a critical piece in the midfield after losing star midfielder Sini Laaksonen this offseason.

“It’s been almost a year since the last time I’ve played a game since COVID,” Curry said. “I was a little nervous coming in since I’m a freshman, but I definitely grew more comfortable after the first game and then today I had a lot more confidence.”

Despite being a newcomer, Curry has quickly earned the respect of Dowiak and her teammates. While UMass still has many players absent due to injury, Curry has quickly secured herself as one of the on-field commanders of the team.

“We were able to come back in the fall for about eight weeks and train and really see some of the young players develop and see what they were capable of,” Dowiak said. “She [Curry] had a really good fall and when we came back, she was mentally checked in and ready to get into these game settings. She’s been arguably one of our best players in a lot of sessions just in her intensity and technical ability and ability to be dangerous like we saw today.”

The Minutewomen are set to return to action Sunday at 2 p.m. when UMass faces off against UMass Lowell in what will be its final non-conference game this season.

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

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