Lauren Bonavita’s goal scoring ventures at all-time high in final season with UMass

The graduate student nets the only goal of the game for the Minutewomen

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Assistant Sports Editor

Lauren Bonavita has been lights out for the Massachusetts women soccer team despite its losing record, and Thursday night’s tie with Virginia Commonwealth University proved to be no different. The forward netted the equalizer in the seventh minute after the Rams (2-1-6, 0-0-1 Atlantic 10) found the back of the net 35 seconds into the contest.

Even with numerous different forwards all with unique talents, Bonavita’s foot skills and solid shot has allowed her to dominate so far this season.

“I don’t think that there is a better or more natural goal scorer than her in the conference,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “It’s more than just scoring goals at this point. She takes games on her back, and she rises to the challenge, and she figures out what every opponent is offering, and she uses what they think against them.”

With forwards and midfielders such as Ashley Lamond and Nia Hislop who can barrel their way down the sidelines with speed, looking to get a cross in, Bonavita takes a different approach. Knowing she isn’t the fastest on the field, the forward looks to trick the defenders instead. Whether it’s a pull back or a quick step over to change the direction of play, Bonavita’s stealth and strength allows her to put the ball in the back of the net from long distances.

In her fifth year, the graduate student displays confidence when the ball is at her feet, charging forward and taking shots from far out. Being known for her strong shot, Bonavita switched things up early in the first half, taking the ball along the end line and looking for the simple cross, but it was cleared away by VCU defenders.

The Minutewomen (1-4-4, 0-0-1 A-10) were awarded the first corner kick of the contest and after falling behind in the first minute, UMass looked for a quick change of pace and motivation. Bonavita provided that off a set play where Lauren Smida played the corner kick to the forward, who after one touch, sent a bullet into the top right corner of the net.

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“She’s just so incredibly gifted at creating enough separation to get shots off and her shots are absolutely purposeful,” Dowiak said. “She’s so accurate. She’s so powerful.”

Bonavita chose to return to UMass for her fifth year of eligibility, believing that it was the best chance for her to play professional soccer.

“She has aspirations of going pro after this year, so she’s motivated by even more things to be productive and be dominant,” Dowiak said.

Joining the Minutewomen squad in 2018, Bonavita earned a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team honors and was named to the New England Soccer Journal’s Second Team along with being named the NESJ Rookie of the year. In her first season, Bonavita played a total of 872 minutes, recording seven goals and five assists, and in her sophomore year she scored 12 goals. Suffering through some injuries, during her junior year, Bonavita played in 10 games as a senior, scoring a goal, and recording an assist throughout the season.

“She’s better than she’s been in three years,” Dowiak said. “She’s stronger than she’s been in three years and her mentality is really on another level.”

With Bonavita’s efforts already this season, she is set to surpass her success during her sophomore year.

In the second game of the season, Bonavita sent in a cross from the corner find its way to the back of the net and earning shouts of “Olimpico!” The goal earned recognition from the NCAA and was just the start of her goal scoring adventures this year.

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As conference play began Thursday in the game against VCU and now reaching the halfway point of the season, Bonavita leads the team in goals by a large margin with six. Ella Curry sits in second with two goals.

After a two-game road trip, the Minutewomen return home for a matchup against Davidson on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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