Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Bella Mendoza gets overwhelmed with shots as UMass falls to Saint Louis

Mendoza makes 10 saves in the loss
Collegian File Photo (2021)

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team returned home to face first-place Saint Louis and were unable to keep up with its speed, losing 3-0.

UMass (4-6-5, 3-1-2 A-10) entered the second half of the game knotted at zero with Saint Louis (13-1-0, 6-0-0 A-10), with both teams getting some quality opportunities to score in the first half. Both goaltenders had to stay sharp early, but if wasn’t for Bella Mendoza’s great athletic saves, the score could have been much higher in the Billikens’ favor.

Mendoza faced 13 shots, many of which were quality opportunities for Saint Louis to score. The goalkeeper stayed focused throughout the game, making saves by staying in front of the ball even while diving, and showed hand-eye coordination by catching fast shots. Her best save came in the 78th minute, diving to her right to deflect a high, one-touch shot over the net to keep the game at one goal.

“Bella played fantastic,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “She is such a gifted shot-stopper. I thought her composure in very difficult, point-blank moments proved how she plays at such a high level.”

Mendoza also had some great saves by her defense in front of her. When she was forced to challenge a Billikens’ forward at the side of the box after a defensive breakdown, forward Hannah Friedrich received a crosser pass past a sprawled Mendoza. She took what appeared to be an open net shot in the middle of the field, but Juliana Ryan would stop the hard shot with her foot and cleared it away, averting the dangerous chance.

“We had some really good stretches of possessing the ball,” Dowiak said. “We created a few very good chances in the first half. Again, this is an opponent that is used to winning, and wavering their confidence was tough, but I think we were able to frustrate them in the first half with good ball management.”

The first goal of the game came off the head of Lyndsey Heckel from a corner kick. Anna Walsh sent the crosser pass to the far post, the exact spot needed for Heckel to deflect the ball across the goal line to make it 1-0 for Saint Louis.

The Minutewomen struggled to manage speed and positioning of their opponents. The Billikens played tight defense, especially in the middle of the field, and always seemed to have the edge when they were moving the ball around. As the second half went on, Saint Louis won most of the 50/50 ball battles, and UMass looked rattled when they had the ball while being down by a goal.

The moment that ended up costing the Minutewomen came in the 80th minute while Saint Louis was pressing on offense. A UMass defender was transitioning back up the field from its defensive end, and would then get swarmed by three Billikens, and kicked the ball back behind her own goal in panic. Saint Louis would convert the corner kick and take a 2-0 lead off of a header by Sophia Stram, very similar to the first goal.

A third goal would come in the 88th minute for the Billikens, and though the game would end with a final score of 3-0, Dowiak was still proud of his team’s performance against a strong conference opponent.

“Our team did everything that we wanted to see from them today,” Dowiak said. “Their attitude and effort were so good. Giving up two goals on corners was just like when we gave up three corner goals in the A-10s against them, so we still need to work on that, but otherwise I am very proud of this group.”

The Minutewomen will travel to Washington D.C. to face George Washington on Sunday, Oct. 16th at 1 p.m.

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

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