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 stumbles in late push, falls to Loyola Chicago 2-1

The Minutewomen fail to recover from a poor first half on both ends of the field
Caitlin Mott / Daily Collegian 2021

The Massachusetts women’s soccer team went down by multiple goals in the first half and despite a second half rally, ultimately suffered a 2-1 loss to Loyola Chicago on the road.

The Minutewomen (5-7-5, 4-3-2 Atlantic-10) started the game on the back foot immediately from kickoff.  An energetic press from the Ramblers (7-7-3, 3-5-1 A-10) forced multiple turnovers in UMass’s own half which subsequently led to several quickfire shots and chances on Bella Mendoza’s goal over the first few minutes of play.

Entering the night, Loyola Chicago had to win both of its remaining two games to have a chance at a conference playoff spot.

“We anticipated [the Ramblers] coming out [in] do or die mode, and that’s exactly what they did,” head coach Jason Dowiak said. “We kept putting ourselves in difficult situations to not be able to get away from our own nest, and they punished us for a great finish on the first one.”

The opening goal for Loyola was scored in the 20th minute by Jaimee Cibulka, who received a pass on the left wing, cut inside to her right foot and looped in a shot with great touch into the bottom right corner, leaving Mendoza rooted to her spot.

The Rambler’s offensive prowess, which hasn’t translated to many goals on the scoresheet for much of the season, was present all throughout this matchup and especially in the first half, led by senior Megan Nemec. Nemec attacked the Minutewomen all game down both flanks, putting in dangerous crosses time after time. She drew a penalty on Fiona Kane in the 33rd minute, in which Kane attempted a slide tackle in the box and managed some contact with the ball but couldn’t avoid hitting Nemec’s right foot in the process.

The penalty was then finished by Abby Swanson into the bottom left corner with both power and precision, leaving Mendoza powerless to make the save despite diving to the correct spot.

Dowiak praised Nemec’s play, calling her “one of the most dynamic players that we’ve seen all season,” but stressed that the result had more to do with his players not playing up to their own high standards, also alluding to the first half of their last game against George Washington in which the Minutewomen went down 1-0 before scoring two second-half goals to win 2-1.

“We were in a fog or a haze, whatever,” Dowiak said. “I don’t know why, but it’s frustrating. We can’t compete in this league and win championships in this league if we don’t take ownership of games better.”

Grace Pinkus came off the bench and scored a goal in the 81st minute to restore some hope to her squad. The goal came off of a corner kick, during which the ball pinballed around near the goal for a bit until Pinkus gathered it outside the six-yard box and fired a powerful strike high to the goalkeeper’s left.

But despite an improved second half of play for UMass, the team ultimately couldn’t create enough chances to earn a draw in the final minutes, which was another point of concern for Dowiak.

“When we did win the ball, when we did gain possession, we just didn’t make good decisions,” he said. “Second half, we changed up things that we were doing to get higher on the field, and it got better. But we didn’t play the way that we want to play; we played a lot more direct. And for us, that’s not really acceptable. We don’t want to resort to a style of play that’s against what we train and what we prepare for.”

According to Dowiak, with the loss unfolding in the manner that it did, the coaching staff opted to allow the players to process it on their own in the locker room.

“Telling them what went bad right now wasn’t the right time,” Dowiak said. “We’re gonna give them a little bit of time to let this result simmer and hopefully it gives them some of their own reason to get ready for Sunday.”

With Thursday’s loss, UMass fell from fourth to seventh in the A-10 conference standings and now find themselves in a jumbled pack of teams in the fourth-to-seventh range that include Davidson, Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s, all separated by just one point going into their regular season closers.

The Minutewomen will finish out their regular season with a home matchup against Fordham at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rudd Field.

Jedhi Lee can be reached at [email protected].

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