Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass begins conference play with hard fought 1-1 tie against VCU

Lauren Bonavita scores the equalizer for the Minutewomen
Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team overcame a slow start, playing with energy throughout the remainder of Thursday’s 1-1 tie with VCU to snap its two-game losing streak.

Goalkeeper Bella Mendoza was the story of the game for UMass (1-4-4, 0-0-1 Atlantic 10), saving eight of the nine shots on goal while being pressured by the Rams (2-1-6, 0-0-1 A-10) offense for most of the match. The junior kept her composure despite giving up an early goal 35 seconds into the game.

“[Mendoza] made some unbelievable saves tonight,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “It just gives our players in front of our goalkeepers the confidence to play higher when we need to play higher. We saw something very different tonight that we have not seen often enough in the entire time I have been at UMass that gives us the opportunity to believe in a different way.”

The Minutewomen did not give VCU’s (2-1-6, 0-0-1 A10) goalkeeper as much of a hard time, with Whitney Horton stopping just one of just two shots on goal from UMass.

The Rams first and only goal came by way of a couple of underclassmen. Freshman midfielder Kendyl Sarver scored the goal on an assist by sophomore forward Kanna Matsuhisa a mere 35 seconds into the contest. Sarver is leading the team with four goals and eight points on the year while Matsuhisa recorded her third assist of the season.

The Minutewomen quickly responded at the seven-minute mark of the first half, after Lauren Bonavita scored the lone goal for the Minutewomen which went unassisted. Bonavita leads UMass with six goals and 10 points.

“It was an unnecessary and unfortunate wake up call,” Dowiak said about giving up the early goal. “We have been talking the last 24 hours about being willing to sacrifice for each other, battle for each other, and trust each other.”

Dowiak also noted that he was down two coaches tonight with assistant coach Sam Mitchell out with COVID-19 and Ricky Newton out due to personal reasons. Because of this, he had to take on even more of the load than usual.

“I felt the energy that I needed to bring might be a catalyst,” Dowiak said. “I lost my voice a little bit.”

The final score may not reflect it, but VCU dominated in possession throughout the majority of the game, specifically in the second half. The Rams took 21 total shots compared to four from the Minutewomen.

“We played too much into the pressure at times,” Dowiak said of the possession disparity.

Yet, despite having to play more defensively, UMass was able to keep the game tied all the way to the finish. Following the game, Dowiak had high praise for his goalkeeper and defense.

“At the end of the day between our backs and [Mendoza] we solved everything. They were our unsung heroes tonight.”

Dowiak also emphasized the energy from the Minutewomen bench, saying that it played a large role in the result.

“Their attitude, energy, and support was such a difference maker for us,” Dowiak said. “I am beyond proud of the effort and the result and the fight for each other tonight.”

UMass sophomore forward Chandler Pedolzky made her triumphant return from a toe injury which caused a two-game absence. Prior to injury, Pedolzky had been a starting forward for the Minutewomen, providing a big presence up front as well as strong passing skills. Karina Groff also say time after sitting out with an ankle injury. Serena Ahmed was the only unusual absence on the field, but Dowiak alluded that she might be out for a while.

 The Minutewomen take on divisional foe Davidson at 1 p.m. on Rudd Field on Sunday.

Eli Weisberger can be reached at [email protected].

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