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 looks to continue offensive dominance against Saint Joseph’s

The Minutewomen make their third consecutive trip to the A-10 semifinal
Thom Kendall / Atlantic 10 Conference

Making its third consecutive Atlantic 10 semifinal appearance, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team will be flying to Dayton, Ohio to face the No. 8 seed Saint Joseph’s for a chance at the conference title.

The Hawks (6-11-2, 5-5-0 A-10) sent shockwaves around the A-10 upsetting No. 1 seed VCU 1-0 in the opening round of the playoffs by way of a 3rd minute goal by Erica Behr. St. Joe’s confidence will match that of the Minutewomen (10-5-4, 5-3-2 A-10) who are coming off their most complete performance all season.

“It’s always a surprise when an eight seed beats a one,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “St. Joe’s is a really good program, [Head Coach Jess Mannella] does an amazing job with them and they’ve always been successful. They just had a slow start I think and now they’re on a winning streak.”

UMass has consistently shown promise for a deep playoff run all season, achieving a historic 10-game unbeaten streak, and is now coming off its most dominant performance in a 5-1 blowout over a St. Bonaventure side that previously gave the Minutewomen trouble in their 0-0 regular season draw on Oct. 21.

“We had that same scenario against St. Bonaventure the first time we played them where we maybe didn’t show them enough respect,” Dowiak said. “VCU certainly had chances and opportunities but credit to St. Joe’s for battling and finding a way to put the ball in the net.”

Dowiak and the coaching staff has their work cut out for them in the film room this week, facing St. Joe’s for the first time this season. Unlike their matchup against the Bonnies, the Minutewomen won’t have the luxury of fixing past mistakes against teams they have already battled during A-10 play.

“We’ve got a great student assistant who helps with our statistical analysis, Yuma Yamamoto, he looks through our in stat database which is a national program that we use for video exchange and does the statistical breakdown of everybody,” Dowiak said.

UMass’ offensive brilliance on Sunday highlights its ability to score against any opponent no matter what defense is in front of it as long as every player does their job effectively.

“We’ll look into what their tendencies are and look at a lot of film from their recent games so that we know what we need to be prepared for,” Dowiak said. “It’s a lot more about us and putting [our players] into situations where we feel we can be successful.”

Sunday’s performance showcased the talent of Ashley Lamond, Mia Carazza, Olivia Gouldsbury and Lauren Robles who were a nightmare for the Bonnies back four, continuously making runs in the wide areas or beating defenders one-on-one.

Midfielder Bella Recinos’ ability to glue the ball to her feet and charge through the midfield provided those players with the time and space to make those runs and break through the last line of defense.

The never-ending list of impactful players for UMass gives Dowiak an opportunity to adjust lineups accordingly, and consistently give teams new looks throughout the 90 minutes.

“It’s hard to look at one thing to make [lineup] changes but I think we’ve got a good rotation of players right now,” Dowiak said. “Everybody’s playing really well … It’s about how we communicate with them off the field to help them understand the way we feel they can best serve the team and the role that they’re playing right now.”

Chandler Pedolzky’s constant presence in the offensive third similarly opens the door for many of the scoring opportunities the Minutewomen create. Pedolzky has recorded a league high nine assists this season despite not directly scoring a goal as UMass’ preeminent forward since Sept. 19 at Duquesne.

“The thing about [Pedolzky] is she is such a targeted player and I think a lot of the reasons we are successful at times is that she’s really good at holding the ball up, she’s so strong and powerful, but her technical comfort and creativity on the ball makes it impossible for our opponents not to have to be concerned with her,” Dowiak said. “When she does get on the ball, she may not be the one getting it into the back of the net, but she’s got nine assists now and she moves our opponents around so much.”

Some of UMass’ most impactful players have struggled with injuries throughout the course of the season and are slowly all making their return at the right time. Lauren Bonavita, UMass’ top-goal scorer in 2019, along with Sarah Defreitas have provided valuable rest for Minutewomen starters as they near their 20th game in three months.

“Everybody is starting to feel really good, which has been nice,” Dowiak said. “We’ve been able to rest [Ryan], Lauren [Smida], Ava [Jouvenel] a little bit in the last couple of games. Karina [Groff] is getting better every day so we’re excited that we’ll be getting her back on the field soon,” Dowiak said.

“Everybody’s got to step up,” Dowiak said. “If we have a performance like we did on Sunday then we’re going to be in control. Hopefully we can do it for 90 minutes instead of 85.”

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

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