Bella Mendoza stands tall for UMass in 1-1 tie against Saint Joseph’s

Mendoza records two late saves in the draw

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Caitlin Mott/ Daily Collegian (2021)

By Scottie Marro, Collegian Contributor

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team took to the road on Thursday night, coming away with a 1-1 draw to Saint Joseph’s, highlighted by two big saves from Bella Mendoza near the end of the game.

Mendoza shined in goal for the Minutewomen, making it the fourth consecutive game she has played the full 90 minutes. For most of the game, she was making routine saves while looking calm and poised in the net, until the Hawks started playing with urgency in the second half after falling behind by one goal. Saint Joseph’s Natalie Nevins made a great inside-to-outside crossover to get around Fiona Kane inside the box and would be denied point blank by Mendoza who dove to her right to catch the ball near the post.

“She just had total command of her box tonight,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “Second half she made a really impressive save at close range and held onto it, her hands are just so clean. Her distribution was really good tonight.”

Her next high-pressure moment would come in the 85th minute when Jiselle Daniels ended up being left alone at the top of the box with a breakaway opportunity. Mendoza decided to be aggressive and come out to challenge the shooter, sprawling out and getting a piece of the ball with her right hand as it was shot to her right. The ball deflected out of bounds.

The only goal Mendoza gave up was on a penalty kick in the second half. Nevins went up for a high header and collided with Kane, who received a yellow card on the play. Nevin made no mistake this time, tucking in her shot labeled for the outside corner.

In the opening minutes, UMass was backed up into its own zone while the Hawks were pushing offensively. Halfway through the first half, the roles reversed, as the Minutewomen became much more aggressive offensively and were pushing for scoring chances while creating corner-kick opportunities.

“This was the most complete game that we have played so far,” Dowiak said. “The first ten minutes was a little bit chaotic when we were getting pressed in our own end, but once we settled in after those ten minutes, we played some of the prettiest soccer we’ve put together all season.”

UMass was able to get on the board early after Lauren Bonavita recorded her 9th goal of the season seven minutes into the half, marking her fourth consecutive game scoring for the Minutewomen. Ashley Lamond took it tough around a defender at the top of the box, producing a give-and-go with Bella Recinos, who then backed down a defender and passed the ball to Bonavita. The graduate student buried the ball into the inside right corner.

Recinos was a notable presence for UMass throughout the game, making accurate passes and always contributing to plays around the box. Freshman Nia Hislop also showcased her acceleration early on, with her teammates trusting her to take the ball along the wing in a more offensive role than what was seen in the previous contest against Davidson.

The Minutewomen have yet to lose against A-10 opponents, coming away with a point each in both of their road trips and a win in their only home game this far into conference play.

“You know, getting points on the road is always difficult with the nature of travel and just keeping focus,” Dowiak said. “The conference is super tight right now, all the top teams are very congested still only three games in, so I think it was an important result tonight.”

The Minutewomen return home for an A-10 conference matchup with Dayton at noon on Rudd Field. Sunday’s matchup will be in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, known as the Flagship 50 game.

Scottie Marro can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @scottiemarro.