UMass’ defensive struggles lead to a 2-1 loss to Dayton

Lamond scores only UMass goal in loss

Collegian+File+Photo+%282021%29

Collegian File Photo (2021)

By Scottie Marro, Collegian Correspondent

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team was defeated 2-1 by the visiting Dayton Flyers (9-1-1, 3-0-0 A-10) due to defensive breakdowns that led to two breakaway goals.

UMass (2-5-5, 1-1-2 A-10) started off the game owning possession of the ball and was playing responsible defense in the middle of the field. After about five minutes, however, Dayton woke up and set the tone of the first half. Flyers forward Laney Huber found herself on a breakaway off of a defensive breakdown by the Minutewomen in the middle lanes. Fiona Kane was able to catch up with her, but Huber maintained control of the ball to tuck it behind Bella Mendoza to make it 1-0 early.

Mendoza did not have her best game on Sunday after having a very solid past few games. She challenged the attacker frequently even when the defense was out of position, which was part of what led to Dayton’s first goal. About 30 minutes later, Dayton scored a nearly identical goal to make it 2-0 in the first half. Itala Gemelli scored her eighth goal of the season on another instance of the Minutewomen being out of position on defense. The Flyers continuously exposed UMass’ defensive struggles with their speed and made a move past the goalkeeper to shoot the ball into the same bottom left corner of the net.

“I think we left the field being down 2-0 with our heads down a little bit,” UMass head coach Jason Dowiak said. “We went in and said that we’re absolutely good enough to win this game, so let’s get back to what works for us and prove it, and I think they came back out and proved it quite well.”

UMass came out of halftime looking much more motivated and explosive. Almost immediately it kept sustained pressure on Dayton’s side of the field. Ashley Lamond scored her first of the season 3:50 into the half off of a UMass corner kick. The ball was kicked towards the outside of the box, which hit a defender and landed straight in front of Lamond, who fired a perfect shot into the top left corner from far out to make it 2-1.

There were a few key Minutewomen that did not show their contributions on the score sheet but were still bright spots in the loss. Bella Recinos was one of the more aggressive UMass players all game, coming away with most 50-50 balls when they were near her, and had great backchecking. Megan Olszewski tended the goal in the second half and was stable in net, making two saves. Nia Hislop was also very noticeable on both offense and defense and was typically involved in the transitions up field.

Many times, she was winning tough battles and accelerating straight past the Flyers’ defense to set up teammates cutting towards the goal by making accurate passes while on the run.

“[Hislop] had a great game today,” Dowiak said. “Really good on both sides. She defended with so much intensity, you know, she’s really coming along as a freshman more and more every game.”

The rest of the second half was lackluster for the Minutewomen. The Flyers started to trap the outside more, where UMass was mainly operating and moving the ball. Defense for the Minutewomen also became sloppy later, with the flow of the game getting broken up by turnovers. Lauren Bonavita, the leading scorer for UMass, was held scoreless for the first time in four games and was a non-factor for most of the game.

“Honestly, the last two games we have started to put more of what we like to call our ‘pillars’ together,” Dowiak said. “We’ve just been limited to our own mistakes, but the quality that comes from our possessions will hopefully see the ball go in the back of the net more soon.”

UMass will look to bounce back on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. against Duquesne at Rudd Field.

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