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

Bella Mendoza making the most of her opportunity

The goalkeeper has stepped up in net
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

With its 2-0 victory over George Washington on Thursday afternoon, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team picked up its fourth shutout of the season, due in large part to strong goaltending play from senior Bella Mendoza.

After fellow senior goalkeeper Megan Olszewski went down with an injury in the second game of the season against Vanderbilt, Mendoza has taken on the role of full-time goalie for the Minutewomen (4-2-2, 1-0 Atlantic 10).

Mendoza spent her first three years with the Minutewomen splitting time in net with her teammates. The split was between Olszewski the last two seasons and Alyssa Chase her freshman year. In each of these seasons, Mendoza had a shared load in the net resulting in fewer minutes for her than her counterparts in her first two seasons.

Although she was ready to split time with Olszewski again this season, Mendoza is not backing down from this opportunity to prove herself as an elite goaltender.

“It’s been physically demanding, that’s for sure,” Mendoza said. “I’m going to take advantage of every moment and make this my year.”

Mendoza has truly taken advantage of this added time in net, as she has only allowed four goals against in her six games without Olszewski by her side. In that time, the Minutewomen have a record of 3-2-1, including their first win in A-10 play.

Mendoza hasn’t allowed a goal at Rudd Field, where UMass is 3-0 this season.

Despite the success, Mendoza acknowledges that she misses having Olszewski as her partner in crime on the field.

“That’s been our routine the last few years,” Mendoza said. “As much as I love the opportunity to play, it sucks to not have [Olszewski] alongside me.”

In their two previous seasons together, Olszewski took on the brunt of the workload in 2021, playing 1,236 minutes compared to Mendoza’s 774. Mendoza overtook her in minutes in 2022 with 1,080 compared to Olszewski’s 585.

Now, at just eight games in, Mendoza has already played 634 minutes and is on pace to shatter her previous high of 1,080.

If it has been more physically taxing for Mendoza without Olszewski, it sure hasn’t shown on the field, as she currently boasts the second-best goals against average in the A-10 at .851. Mendoza is also tied for second in the A-10 in shutouts with three.

Mendoza credits her teammates for making her life as a goaltender as easy as they can.

“Our back line and our defensive unit altogether has been really solid,” Mendoza said. “We’ve had some slip-ups this season, but overall, we’ve had a really solid start and it’s just going to carry on into conference play.”

After a 2022 season where allowing goals was a weakness for UMass, the 2023 squad has made a major improvement on the defensive front. In their first eight games of the 2022 season, the Minutewomen allowed 18 goals. Through their first eight games this season, UMass cut that number into a third, only allowing six goals to their opponents.

It certainly helps when half of the Minutewomen’s games have been shutouts, thanks to Mendoza’s play in net.

Now with one A-10 win tucked under their belt, Mendoza is riding that confidence moving forward.

A tough test against Dayton awaits Mendoza and the Minutewomen on Sunday, Sept. 17, as Dayton has already scored 20 goals this season. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.

Matt Skillings can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @matt_skillings.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *