Two second half goals leave UMass scrambling in 2-1 loss to Fairfield

‘We were two very different teams first half and second half’

Caitlin+Mott%2F+Daily+Collegian

Caitlin Mott/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team found itself in a dire situation after two second half goals from Fairfield erased UMass’ lead. The Minutewomen were unable to find the equalizer late and lost 2-1.

“We were two very different teams first half and second half,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “We played some of the best possession-based soccer that we’ve ever played in the first half.  Move them around, stretch them out, created chances and we continue to struggle to put the ball in the back of the net for some reason, but we know we have the talent to you know the players that can do it.”

In the first half, Lauren Robles found herself in a breakaway situation after a through ball allowed her to beat two defenders and charge towards the net. The Fairfield goalkeeper Gena Pike was able to get her hand out to prevent the ball from going in, and the defenders in front of her hustled back and knocked the ball out of play on the goal line to prevent the score.

Following the play, Pike remained on the ground and had to be helped off the field. Freshman Katie Wright replaced her in net, but her debut game did not get off to a great start.

After the ball trickled out on the goal line save by the Stags, the Minutewomen were awarded a corner kick and Lauren Bonavita lined up to take it. The graduate student floated the ball in and over the head of Wright, ricocheting off the back post and into the top of the goal with only three seconds remaining in the half.

“[Bonavita’s] direct corner in for a goal was a great service and a great way to end the half, and it should have been the motivation and catalyst that we needed to really continue to drive forward,” Dowiak said. “She came in and helped us create chances, and she’s so capable, especially in those set piece moments of creating danger. She has such a great service. She’s worked on it so much over her entire career.”

At the half, UMass dominated offensively, creating numerous chances, ending with 11 shots. At the same time, the Minutewomen held off Fairfield, allowing just three shots across the 45 minutes of play. Megan Olszewski had a quiet half, making two saves and not being tested much.

While Write returned to the net for the Stags at the start of the second half, Bella Mendoza made her first appearance of the season, taking over for Olszewski.

“It felt like a comfortable moment to make a change in the way that we did often last year,” Dowiak said. “[Mendoza] came in and played fine. There wasn’t anything on her in possession or in those moments, and I think both goals came through a lot of traffic right in front of her. Tough moments to be expected to save.”

Maddie Mills took a shot from inside the box, and while Mendoza was able to get a hand on it, the ball rolled past her and slowly into the back of the net to even the game 1-1. Soon after, a one-time shot by Samantha Kersey off the flick from Reagan Klarmann and Elle Scott found its way to the goal, flipping the game in favor of Fairfield.

Fiona Kane made her return to the pitch after being sidelined for the entire second half of UMass’ win over Albany. Fellow defender Serena Ahmed rejoined the team after not playing on Thursday for precautionary reasons.

[Ahmed] was so good today,” Dowiak said. “She was unbelievable and [Kane] felt significantly better from the other day and it showed.”

In her return, Ahmed was called for a yellow card late in the first half after they ruled her elbow was too high and resulted in a dangerous play that knocked a Fairfield forward over. Moments later, coach Sam Mitchell was on his feet after the official’s hand shot up for a tackle made by Lauren Robles. Mitchell and Dowiak believed that the tackle was clean, and their arguing earned them a yellow card as well.

The Minutewomen continued to knock on the door of the Stags net, but eight offsides calls plagued them. UMass switched sides often, finding players running up the sidelines, but poorly timed runs gave Fairfield possession. That combined with the “casual” play during the second half allowed the Stags to take over.

As for forward Karina Groff who left Thursday’s season opener with an ankle injury, her return remains unknown.

“Nothing’s broken, we know that,” Dowiak said. “She had an x-ray, and it was all good there. So, I think it’s just getting with doctors early this week and starting the rehab process. She’s built to bounce back quick.”

UMass will continue its road trip with a matchup against Pittsburgh on Thursday at 5 p.m.

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