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 defeat Saint Joseph’s 2-0 to advance to the Atlantic 10 championship

The Minutewomen will make their first finals appearance since 2011
Daily Collegian

In its fourth consecutive appearance, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team were finally able to break the deadlock, defeating Saint Joseph’s 2-0 in the Atlantic 10 semifinal, advancing to the championship game Sunday for the first time since 2011.

“I’m so proud of our group,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “So proud of the leadership from our seniors. They deserve it … I’m just flying high right now.”

UMass (11-5-4, 5-3-2 A-10) opened the scoring only 20 minutes into the first half, after controlling much of the midfield and playing the game at its own speed. Rising star Ashley Lamond, rose to the sky, heading a cross by Olivia Gouldsbury down at the feet of St. Joe’s (6-12-2, 5-5-0 A-10) goalkeeper Katie Cappelletti.

Cappelletti did a great job getting her gloves to Lamond’s first attempt but deflected it back out to the in-stride and unmarked Lamond who pounced on the second chance and tapped it home for the Minutewomen.

Lamond was honored by the A-10 on Nov. 4 earning herself a spot in the second-team all-conference and all-rookie team and made sure the Hawks knew she was deserving of those accolades, scoring her seventh goal on the season.

“She’s very athletic,” Dowiak said of Lamond. “It’s timing. It’s not something that’s easily taught when players get older, and heading isn’t a big part of the women’s game like it is in the men’s and [Lamond] has a very good instinct on how to time the ball … She has a knack of getting above the ball and jacking it back down. It’s a really amazing quality that she has.”

Scoring for the first time this season, Bonavita etched her name once more within the UMass history books. 20 minutes into the second half, Bella Recinos surged through the midfield, a familiar sight for Minutewomen supporters, eventually releasing Bonavita who timed her run to perfection and slid at the ball, knocking it past Cappelletti.

Bonavita scored her first goal since March 21 against Fordham in the 2021 season. Battling with multiple injuries the last two years, Bonavita put a stamp in UMass’ performance with her goal on Friday.

“As a senior coming back from injuries, to get that goal in that moment to get us into the final where the program hasn’t been in a long, long time is just special,” Dowiak said. “We got to show some more potency, another goal scorer for the stat sheet. It was a good day.”

The clock winding down with only eight minutes to go, Hawks forward Aleksa Peev rifled a shot at Minutewomen goalkeeper Bella Mendoza, forcing her to make an uncomfortable save that ricocheted off her gloves and towards the far post.

Mendoza sprung to action, sprinting at her own goal as two St. Joe’s forwards waited to tap in a sitter at the far post, dove and deflected the ball away, rescuing the shutout for the Minutewomen.

The goalkeeper tandem of Mendoza and Megan Olszewski, so familiar now under Dowiak’s side, were able to keep a clean sheet against a counter-attacking Hawks side that reached the target on eight of their 19 shots.

“[Olszewski] played so well in the first half,” Dowiak said. “It’s so great for us to have the situation that we do. [Olszewski] made everything look easy. [Mendoza] faced some really challenging scenarios, because St. Joe’s came out really well in the second half and was on top of us for a stretch, but she was unbelievable in the second half.”

Midway through the second half, St. Joe’s saw its best opportunity of the match squandered by the crossbar. Cutting in with her right foot on the top of the box, Izzy Greene smashed a shot near post, past the hands of Mendoza, only to see the ball bounce right back in her direction.

Despite the multiple dangerous chances, the Hawks were oftentimes a foot off the mark in the offensive third thanks to the performance of center back Fiona Kane, who managed to keep most of the danger away from her net just as St. Joe’s began to find its rhythm.

“[Kane] played the most complete game,” Dowiak said. “Second-team all-conference this year, she is a fantastic player, but that was the most perfect game I’ve seen her play. She solved so many problems that go unnoticed.”

UMass will take on the winner of Dayton and St. Louis, Sunday, Nov. 7. Kickoff is set for noon at Baujan Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Kevin Schuster can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @KevinESchuster.

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