UMass looking to finish the season strong against La Salle on Sunday

Recovery was highlighted in practice on Friday

Daily+Collegian

Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

Energy remained high throughout Friday’s practice for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team with the end of the season looming and post-season play just around the corner. UMass (9-4-4, 5-2-2 Atlantic 10) will travel to Philadelphia and face off against La Salle in its final game of the regular season.

“We’re not excited that it’s coming to an end, but that we get to be in playoffs,” captain Ava Jouvenel said. “Everyone has been putting in a lot of work in training and lift, and I think the energy has been good and the mentality has been good.”

The importance of recovery was stressed, with players spending much of Friday morning stretching. Most of the season was filled with two games a week, so the Minutewomen were starting to feel the soreness after such a compact schedule.

The offensive movement was also a focus, with the Minutewomen struggling to find the back of the net in Thursday’s matchup against St. Bonaventure. The game ended with 18 shots but only three on goal.

“We know that La Salle is a pretty physical team, so we’re trying to get our minds ready for that,” Jouvenel said. “We’re just going to try to really play together, finish our chances, and for me as a defensive player, getting a shut out would be nice too.”

The efforts of Jouvenel, Fiona Kane, and Juliana Ryan in the backline prevented many opportunities for the Bonnies, including two goals that were called offsides after UMass’ defense was able to hold a high line. Goalkeeper Megan Olszewski started the game in net, making two critical saves in the first half. Jouvenel and the defensive line worked together to record their sixth shutout of the season.

“A lot of people would probably look at our team and say we’ve secured a spot in tournament, which we have, and we don’t have that much to lose, but we really want a home game,” co-captain Mia Carazza said. “I think that there is a little bit of desperation and a little bit of nervous energy around getting those final results.”

The Minutewomen currently sit in fourth place in A-10 play, and a win this Sunday will guarantee them home field advantage in the quarterfinals. In 10th place, this game is a must win for the Explorers (5-9-2, 3-5-1 A-10), with only the top eight teams making it to the tournament.

Last season was a little different for UMass after games were affected by the pandemic. The sophomores and freshman will get to experience the post season atmosphere, with the Minutewomen advancing to their fourth consecutive A-10 tournament.

“I think there is also just a lot of excitement,” Carazza said. “There’s a lot of people on our team who haven’t experienced like what real postseason looks like yet.”

There are 12 new players adorned UMass jersey’s this year, with a high of nine freshman and sophomores starting in games throughout the season. The ability to work together and learn from the returning players took time, but towards the last few games, growth showed, and teamwork shined.

“Trying to raise the bar and have a good comeback after coming off of a tie,” Carazza said of her expectations for the team this weekend. “It’s just a hard part of the semester so just trying to keep each other accountable, hold each other up, and keep supporting each other. It’s kind of less soccer related and more like mental health and motivation related.”

Kick-off  at La Salle is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @SophieeWellerr.