UMass starts the 2022 season with 1-0 win over Albany

Ella Curry’s early goal puts the Minutewomen on top

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Daily Collegian File Photo

By Sophie Weller, Assistant Sports Editor

As the seconds winded down and the clock ticked closer to zero, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team showed grit and determination, holding off all attacks and securing a 1-0 win over Albany in its season opener.

Ella Curry gave UMass the lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the first half after Chandler Pedolzky was tripped in the box, awarding UMass with a penalty kick. Curry buried it in the bottom right corner of the net.

“Honestly I just wanted to do the best I could for my team and put us up one goal and get us some momentum going in that half,” Curry said. “Lot of relief and excitement of course.”

Curry, a midfielder moved back to defense after Fiona Kane came out of the game with an ankle injury but in the altered position, remained strong to prevent many dangerous opportunities for the Great Danes.

“It was a great moment,” head coach Jason Dowiak said of the goal. “Then with [Kane], there was zero hesitation,[ Curry] was obviously important in a lot of different ways today because she’s the one that had to play out of position when [Kane] came out, and she handled that change really well.”

Moments later, the crossbar was the only thing that stood in the Minutewomen’s way of doubling the lead. Grace Pinkus’ shot bounced off the crossbar, but Lauren Bonavita was there to recover. Albany’s goalkeeper Megan Hart knocked away Bonavita’s shot on a diving save, giving Bella Recinos a chance with the rebound, but she couldn’t convert.

The crossbar made another appearance in the last minutes of the game after Ashley Lamond took a shot from the corner, bouncing off the frame and back into play.

After splitting time for a majority of last season with Bella Mendoza, junior goalkeeper Megan Olszewski earned the starting nod on Thursday. Dowiak described her as being “very solid” during all last season and this offseason.

“She knows what she’s good at and she plays to her strengths certainly, but I think what I’m most impressed with [ Olszewski] always is her ability to focus and figure things out, and then just be what we need her to be at any given moment,” Dowiak said. “She made some fantastic saves, even in situations where it seemed impossible.”

Olszewski played the entire 90 minutes, earning the shutout, while recording seven saves.

Nerves seemed to get the better of UMass in the opening minutes of Thursday’s contest, with the Great Danes able to get a prime opportunity in front of the net. Albany’s Olivia Piraino sent a hard pass across the box to Sahara Zingano, but a bad touch allowed Olszewski to pick up the ball. Soon after, Piraino fired a shot from outside the box, but Olszewski stood solid in net, snagging it out of the air.

Moments later, the Great Danes’ Brooke Pickett received a through ball in the middle of the box, with no defenders in front of her. She tried to tap the ball in, but Olszewski dropped to her knees and the ball ricochet off her and away from play. From there on out, it was the Minutewomen who dominated chances, knocking at the door of the Great Dane’s goal.

“I just think the players settled themselves down,” Dowiak said. “The excitement of game one and just the season starting, and then have a lot of high expectations. It’s hard sometimes to get in that moment and be calm enough to live in the moment, so I think they weathered it.”

Dowiak also credited their maturity in being able to slow the game down and play to their strengths rather than rushing through every play.

To open the second half, the ball moved fluidly through UMass’ forwards, starting with Bonavita who connected with Lamond, and then a one touch pass found the foot of Pedolzky. She fired the shot, but it floated over the net.

Expected to see a lot of time throughout the remainder of the season is Serena Ahmed, who was sidelined Thursday dealing with a small ankle injury. The senior is expected to take the place of former Minutemen defender Ava Jouvenel as a left defender. Along with Kane, Karina Groff was also taken out of the game early due to an ankle injury.

The Minutewomen be on the road for their next few games, stopping at Fairfield, Pittsburgh, and Robert Morris, with their next game set for Sunday at 4 p.m. UMass will return home next for a matchup on September 1 against Boston College.

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