UMass women’s soccer falls short in Atlantic 10 semifinal against Davidson

Davidson’s Alexandra Menard headed home the only goal of the game 25 seconds into the match

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Lynus Erickson

Lynus Erickson/Daily Collegian

By Ryan D'Alleva, Collegian Staff

Despite an aggressive second half and a dominant possession performance, the Massachusetts women’s soccer failed to match Davidson’s first-minute goal on Thursday. The goal came after a quick move up the left side of the field. A cross came in and Davidson’s (6-3-3, 4-2-2 Atlantic 10) Alexandra Menard was the first to get her head to it. The early goal was enough to knock the Minutewomen (6-5-1, 5-2-1 A-10) out of the playoffs at the semifinal stage.

“It was a bad start for us, an unnecessary giveaway,” said head coach Jason Dowiak. “A little bit slow of a reaction to recover. And a ball that’s floated like that is kind of tough to deal with anyways in the air. It was a tough one, an annoying one to give up––but also annoying that that’s what ended the season.”

The Minutewomen outshot the Wildcats in both halves, but certainly looked overall the better team in the second half. UMass generated seven shots in the second half, forcing four saves out of Davidson goalkeeper Mary Grace Bunch. The offensive opportunities seemed to come aplenty after a switch in tactic by Dowiak’s side, but a stubborn Wildcat defense held off any threat to the goal.

“I was really impressed with the group’s performance after that first 30 seconds. We did everything we could to get the goal back, and of course, we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Dowiak said. “Davidson is a very, very defensively organized team and they move quite quickly in response to defensive moments. Probably better than any team we played this year and maybe that was the hardest part.”

UMass’ Bella Mendoza, Dani Sclafani and Fiona Kane were the only three players to play the full 90 minutes in Dowiak’s heavily rotated side. Jenny Hipp and Ella Curry each registered two shots––the latter with perhaps the most clear opportunity for UMass with a powerful shot that floated just above the crossbar. Mia Carazza played a career-high 77 minutes and provided a number of great passes over the course of the game.

Despite not getting the ideal result, Dowiak was pleased with the team’s performance and response to going a goal down. Reflecting on the season as a whole, Dowiak asserts that the Minutewomen were very successful––especially given the season’s bizarre circumstances.

“I love my team and everyday I’m more impressed with their drive and their resiliency. We’ve been through a lot this year. COVID has been really difficult for everyone around the country of course, but [after] the injuries we dealt with, the pauses that we’ve dealt with, all of those obstacles––to finish second in this league, to take another step forward as a program in finishing higher than we finished in a long time, to put ourselves in a position to win, and to show that resiliency again after going down in the game [against Davidson]––is something to be proud of.

“I’m just amazed at the players they are and the women that they are and how close they are as a group to fight for each other.”

Looking forward to next season, the Minutewomen will be losing seven seniors. To fill their shoes, UMass will be looking to its younger players and to the recruitment process to continue steady progress.

“I think we have a fantastic returning core. I think we have amazing leadership in Fiona Kane and Serena Ahmed, Mia Carazza of course, and then some of the young players like Hannah Peric, Ella Curry and Bella Mendoza,” Dowiak said. “That youth now has a lot of experience under their belt now too, and that experience––along with some key positional players that we think really highly of in next year’s class––is going to put us in an even better position to become an even more consistent leader in the A-10. We want hopefully to be able to compete on the national stage against the likes of the Power Five schools and the top-45 programs that we’ll be scheduling out.”

Ryan D’Alleva can be reached at [email protected]