Karina Groff’s return from injury showcases athleticism and offensive impacts for UMass

Head coach Jason Dowiak praises the junior’s offensive contributions

Daily+Collegian+%282021%29

Daily Collegian (2021)

By Scottie Marro, Collegian Staff

Karina Groff showed that she can be one of the most impactful offensive players for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team, and she made her presence known in a 1-0 win against Duquesne on Thursday afternoon.

“Kenny,” as head coach Jason Dowiak calls her, seemed to always find herself in the right place at the right time, consistently in front of the net to create scoring chances for UMass (3-5-5, 2-1-2 Atlantic 10).

In the second minute of the game, she displayed speed on the left wing as the Minutewomen were attacking the goal, and while sliding just missed a ball that was crossed over to her side, which set the tone early for the type of impact she would have.

Her crosses and pass receptions were on point, sending balls in off the left side of the field and using any part of her body to control the ball when it was near. When Groff was in the game, her teammates would often send her the long ball, and she would use her speed to gain a step over the defenders to force the ball downfield. In the second half, her best cross came to UMass leading goal scorer Lauren Bonavita streaking up the middle, but her shot went just over the crossbar.

“I feel like today I’ve crossed the ball more times than I have in the past few games,” Groff said. “I think it built our momentum and put us in a better attacking mindset for the rest of the game.”

The Orlando, Fla. native showed plenty of confidence today, always calling out to her teammates trying to get the ball to make plays. In the 22nd minute, she received a great pass from the corner by Bonavita and tried to put the ball in the net from the top of the box, but it was blocked just before it could get Duke’s (4-5-1, 2-2-1 A-10) goalkeeper Maddie Duendorfer was standing.

Her best scoring opportunity however came late in the second half when she redirected Ashley Lamond’s shot off the back of her foot that would go crash straight into the left post and ricochet off. Her skill and athleticism were on full display almost making it 2-0 in favor of the Minutewomen, while recently coming off an ankle sprain as well.

“It definitely still hurts,” Groff said. “It’s something that I have been just managing and it hasn’t gone away really, but I feel good on the field, and it hasn’t felt like too much of a struggle which is good.”

Groff is coming off a breakout season where she started in 17 games as a sophomore for UMass. She recorded four goals, tying for second on the team with Chandler Pedolzky to go along with two assists. She also took the second most shots on the team with 41 with Pedolzky finshing in first with a team-high 56 shots.

“Kenny was such a huge part of our success last year,” Dowiak said. “Getting her back now to where she’s not just healthy but getting her fitness back up is starting to show a lot more quality on her inner touches and decision making, which was huge for us in the first half, especially today.”

Dowiak praised Groff for being a leader to the team even while not being cleared to be on the field. She always brings a positive attitude even when she’s on the sideline after getting subbed out of the game, which he said is important to his team’s morale and success. With her being in her junior season, she is one of the more established forwards on the team and is looked at as a role model both on and off the field.

“She is just a tremendous athlete,” Dowiak said. “She takes care of herself really well, and she’s got a fantastic attitude about being a good example for our younger players.”

After spending their last two games at home, the Minutewomen will travel to play St. Bonaventure on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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