A goal in the third minute by Karina Groff gave the Massachusetts women’s soccer team an early lead against Rhode Island on Sunday but proved to be the lone goal in a 1-1 draw with the Rams. The Minutewomen (6-2-3, 2-0-1 Atlantic 10) started the game strong though, maintaining possession and getting opportunities offensively in Rhode Island’s half of the pitch.
“It was the best 20 minutes we’ve had all year,” UMass coach Jason Dowiak said. “The best soccer we’ve played, the best possession we’ve had, the fastest we’ve started, and we got the goal quick because of it, then proceeded to not keep our foot on the gas. We’ll look at it as a team and try to point out those moments when it was really good and why it was good.”
Groff finished the day with two shots on goal, but her presence in the midfield was what elevated the team’s play. Throughout the game she made key passes in the midfield upwards to the attacking front of the Minutewomen. Her key passes created a multitude of offensive chances for UMass. Once again, the chemistry between Groff and Chandler Pedolzky played an instrumental part in leading the offense for the Minutewomen.
Despite its dominance, UMass and the Rams (3-4-2, 2-0-1 A-10) both ended the first half with five shots on goal. Rhode Island’s equalizer came in the 25th minute when Rebecca D’Anna struck the ball past Megan Olszewski into the back of the net.
“All in all, I think it was a pretty fair result,” Dowiak said. “I think that we struggled to keep the ball up top, there was an urgency to try to get forward, but we were trying to turn and play without control of the ball at first.”
The Minutewomen’s struggles persisted in the second half when they only managed to take two shots. Bella Mendoza was substituted into the game for Olszewski at the half, marking her second game played since returning from injury. Mendoza came out strong, recording five key saves in the 65 minutes she played Sunday.
Mendoza’s performance in goal was crucial for UMass who only had two shots spanning from the second half to the end of the first period of extra time, compared to the Rams who were on full attack in the second half, finishing with nine shots.
The Minutewomen were not in sync throughout much of the second half. A dominant Rhode Island team produced chance after chance that forced UMass to react defensively and also figure out a way to create some offensive opportunities heading into the final period of overtime.
“They took physical ownership of the game and we weren’t ready for that,” Dowiak said. “We couldn’t find our rhythm again until late into overtime.”
UMass managed to take six shots during the second period of overtime but were still unable to score. The Minutewomen finished the game level 1-1 with Rhode Island. This game keeps UMass on its nine-game unbeaten streak.
“At this point, it’s hard in the middle of the season,” Dowiak said. “You know your legs are tired already for the players that are playing so many minutes, so it’s trying to just encourage them that this is what works, let’s stick to it, keep their minds sharp and hopefully we go down to [Washington] D.C. and get a win,” said Dowiak.
UMass heads on the road to face off against George Washington Thursday with kickoff set for 3 p.m.
Batanai Dhliwayo can be reached at [email protected]