Weller: UMass has all the weapons in its arsenal to score, but needs to improve execution

Lauren Bonavita scores two goals, leads the team with four points this season

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Anish Roy/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Assistant Sports Editor

It didn’t take long for the Massachusetts women’s soccer team to start moving up the field, inching closer and closer to the net, but the final push was what’s missing. With players able to take a quick shot or utilize simple passes available to them, the Minutewomen (1-2-3) opted for the harder option, which also turned out to be the less successful decision in their 2-2 draw against UMass Lowell.

Dowiak emphasized two areas of UMass’ game that needed improvement prior to Sunday’s contest: turnovers and scoring.

Unfortunately, the Minutewomen were unable to improve much on either front, with sloppy passes leaving the River Hawks (2-3-1) in positions to score and only two of the 16 shots finding their way into the back of the net. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

In the 15th minute, Kelly Pease sent a ball through the UMass Lowell defenders and to the foot of Ashley Lamond. The sophomore forward’s cross bounced off the leg of River Hawk’s defender Lily Fabian, skimming past the goal and resulting in a corner kick. Despite controlling possession, the Minutewomen only had two shots in those opening minutes, neither of which were on goal.

It’s those opportunities that can lead to the Minutewomen padding the score, but instead, UMass Lowell found its equalizer.

In the 66th minute, Nia Hislop displayed forceful speed, rushing down the right sideline with the ball at her foot, beating multiple defenders in her wake to send a cross into the box. Burgess was forced to make a leaping save, punching the ball past the goal and out-of-bounds for a corner kick.

Despite only being a freshman, Hislop has earned a lot of playing time early in the season. Sunday’s game was arguably her best since making her debut appearance in the season opener, not just relying on speed, but also working back to get the ball and create opportunities. While she remains one of the younger players, which shows in some of her passes and communication on the field, Hislop has quickly become one of the most reliable contributors. After Chandler Pedolzky suffered an injury late in the game, Dowiak describe Hislop as the “easy choice” to replace her.

While the positives from the day were UMass’ ability to find the back of the net twice and Hislop’s strong impressions on offense, the Minutewomen finished the day with 16 shots, which should have led to more points on the board. The negatives remain in their inability to follow through on every chance.

Bella Recinos and Grace Pinkus lined up to take a free kick situated just outside the box, and it was ultimately Pinkus who fired a cross aimed towards the back post. Karina Groff sprinted, jumping up and just narrowly missing the header, but as Dowiak said before the game, it was good to have her back in the lineup for the Minutewomen.

Dealing with an ankle injury, Groff hasn’t taken the field since the season-opening win against Albany, and her athleticism is what’s been missing from the powerful UMass offense.

Another prime opportunity missed came with under a minute remaining, after Gouldsbury took the throw-in. With a strong arm, she was able to reach the box, but the ball was tipped by the head of a UMass Lowell defender and scooped by its goalkeeper. Not a single UMass forward or midfielder charged towards the net to pick up the deflection, instead watching as the ball floated into the goalie’s hands.

As the opening 45 minutes neared its close, the frustration was clear amongst UMass on the pitch, with players not moving to get open and defensive efforts being wasted. This issue of burnout is not new for the Minutewomen, after a devastating defeat to Fairfield in which UMass gave up two goals in the second half. However, to start the second half, they looked rejuvenated, controlling possession.

It wasn’t all bad for UMass on the offensive side of the ball. Lauren Bonavita’s impact on the offense is unmatched, leading the team in goals this season with four. Her shot in the 17th minute floated in from outside the 18-yard box, above the hands of UMass Lowell’s goalkeeper Taylor Burgess and into the top of the net. Her physicality and foot skills lead to many open looks. Soon after, she received the ball right in front of the net, with no defenders in sight, but this time her shot went directly at the goalie.

Bonavita was not done for the day, either. In the second half, she was once again the savior for UMass, after Chandler Pedolzky’s shot deflected off Burgess, and continued to bounce around the box until it found her foot. After the River Hawk’s defender made a goal-line save, Bonavita buried the ball in the bottom left corner of the net.

While Dowiak described Bonavita as someone who scores, UMass needs more players on the offense who can do that too. The team cannot thrive off one person finishing shots, instead needing everyone to contribute to all aspects of the field, whether it be defending or scoring.

The moral of the story: UMass needs to take advantage of every opportunity available, not just focusing on creating those chances, but also on finishing them.

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