AMHERST, Mass. -
The UMass women's soccer team will be in search of its third straight victory this Friday, Aug. 31, when the Minutewomen will play host to Harvard at 1:30 p.m. on Rudd Field, the first half of a UMass-Harvard Soccer doubleheader as the men's squad will also take on the Crimson at 4 p.m.
Friday's match with the Minutewomen will mark the season opener for the Crimson. Harvard is coming off an Ivy League championship in 2011 and an NCAA Tournament berth with a record of 12-5-1.
The Crimson graduated 2011 leading scorer Melanie Baskind who was responsible for 24 of Harvard's 99 points. Sophomore Meg Casscells-Hamby (13 points, 4g, 5a) is the top returning scorer for the Crimson.
Against The Crimson
UMass is 14-9-1 all-time in its series with Harvard that began in 1978. The Minutewomen have not defeated the Crimson since 1996, a 2-1 triple overtime victory in the NCAA Tournament.
Harvard has won the last four in the series, including last year's match, 2-1, in Cambridge on a goal by Melanie Baskind in the 89th minute.
Last Time Out
This past Sunday, UMass logged its first home victory of the season and first shutout, 1-0 over UAlbany for its second straight win.
Sophomore Kristen Gargiulo scored for the Minutewomen, her first goal of her career. Junior Grace Coombs dished an assist, her first of her career.
Senior Stephanie Gordon earned her first shutout of the year and 15h of her career, second at UMass.
Mattsson Named UMass Athlete Of The Week
Sophomore Moa Mattsson was named the UMass Athlete of the Week on Aug. 27, becoming the first Minutewoman to earn a weekly award this season.
Mattsson scored two goals, including the game-winner in UMass' first victory of 2012, at Bryant on Aug. 22. The first of her two tallies, which came just 93 seconds apart, was a beautiful strike from 35 yards out to help down the Bulldogs, 3-2.
Having already matched her freshman year total of six points, Mattsson currently leads the Minutewomen in scoring through three matches after tallying her first of the season in a 2-1 loss to #6 UCLA in the teams' season opener.
Youth Is Served
Eight of UMass' 11 starters against UCLA in the season opener were either first or second-year players for the Minutewomen. Four of the eight--Rebecca Sverrisdóttir, Madison Smith, Jen Coppola and Georgia Gibson --are true freshmen.
Freshman Jackie Bruno also saw her first collegiate action, playing 14 minutes as a reserve.
A Formidable Schedule
In its first seven matches to open the 2012 season, UMass will face five teams that either earned rankings or received votes in the NSCAA Preseason Poll.
The Minutewomen opened up with #6 UCLA and will host (RV) Harvard on Aug. 31.
UMass heads to Winston-Salem the weekend of Sept. 7-9 to play Preseason-ranked #3 Wake Forest and #22 Virginia Tech before traveling to #23 Boston University on Sept. 14.
Cota, enters her final year at UMass coming off her best season of her career to-date. In 2011, Cota posted a record of 12-4-1 with 10 shutouts, good for sixth in program history for shutouts in a single season and most by a individual since Briana Scurry in 1993. She logged a 0.82 goals-against average and a .874 save percentage on her way to NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region, All-New England and All-Atlantic 10 recognitions.
Currently, Cota is sixth all-time in program history with 16 career shutouts, three away from tying Kelly Tuller (1978-80). She ranks sixth in career saves, as well, with 235.
After winning two championships at Northeastern (a CAA tournament title in 2008 and a regular season crown in 2009, Stephanie Gordon saw action in five games in net, drawing four starts in her first season with the Minutewomen in 2011. She posted a record of 2-1-1, including one shutout, and made nine saves in her UMass debut, a 2-1 triumph over New Hampshire. Gordon left Northeastern as the program's career leader in goals-against average (1.09) and earned 2009 All-CAA Second Team and 2008 CAA All-Tournament Team recognition.
In the 2-1 loss to #6 UCLA, Gordon matched her career high with 11 saves, a mark she had previously set against Hofstra while at Northeastern on Oct. 31, 2009.
She bested that career high in the following match, stopping 16 shots at Bryant.
Deep On Defense
Despite graduating 2011 all-region defender Meghan Collins, UMass returns a bulk of talent on defense, some who will see action in the midfield this season.
The Minutewomen bring back five defenders who played in 18 or more games last season.
Among those five, co-captains Jess Howe and Lauren Skesavage were two of five UMass players who started all 21 games last fall. Howe has missed just two matches in her three-plus collegiate seasons for a total of 58 career starts. Skesavage has played and stared 41 of 42 possible matches in her career thus far with the Minutewomen.
As a team, UMass posted 11 shutouts in 2011, including five consecutive, for the most clean sheets by a Minutewomen squad since 1997.
UMass' group of seven sophomores features four players who started 11+ games and appeared in 17 or more of the team's 21 contests last season as freshmen.
Returning leading scorer Tori Sousa posted 12 points as a freshman on four goals and four assists, tying for the team lead in helpers. Sousa posted a team-high nine points in A-10 play (3g, 3a, 2 gwg) last season en route to Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team honors.
Classmate Moa Mattsson is second to Sousa among scorers returning with six points (1g, 4a) as a rookie in 2011. Mattsson, who started all 21 matches last fall, collected multiple postseason accolades, including NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region, Atlantic 10 All-Conference and Atlantic 10 All-Rookie honors.
The Matz Era At UMass
UMass is 24-17-2 (.581) over head coach Ed Matz' first two-plus seasons, including a record of 11-6-1 (.639) in Atlantic 10 matches and a trip to the A-10 final in 2011.
In just two year's time, the squad jumped over 200 spots in the RPI, finishing 2011 with a #46 ranking after concluding the 2009 season at #257.
Under his direction, UMass players have earned nine All-Atlantic 10 honors, five all-region accolades and three All-New England selections.
Matz is 123-108 -27 all-time as a women's head coach, with an overall record (men & women) of 206-182-43.
Home Sweet Home
UMass is 227-70-12 (.809) all-time at home with a 49-39-3 (.555) mark at Rudd Field.
The Minutewomen posted an 8-2-1 home record in 2011, including eight shutouts and a victory over #20 Boston University.
UMass will head south to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a tournament at Wake Forest, Sept. 7-9. The Minutewomen begin the weekend with a 7:30 p.m. match on Friday evening against the host Demon Deacons who advanced all the way to the Final Four of the College Cup last season. UMass will follow up by taking on another 2011 NCAA Tournament squad, Virginia Tech, at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.