Mature UMass women’s soccer squad aiming to take next step in 2022

  • Senior Fiona Kane is a stalwart on the UMass women’ soccer back line. The Massachusetts native has played nearly every game since stepping on campus. The Minutewomen open the season at 4 p.m. Thursday against Albany. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Westfield native Chandler Pedolzky led the UMass women’s soccer team with nine assists last season as a freshman.  The Minutewomen open the season at 4 p.m. Thursday against Albany. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass women’s soccer captain Olivia Gouldsbury is one of five seniors on the roster this season.  The Minutewomen open the season at 4 p.m. Thursday against Albany. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2022 6:00:45 PM
Modified: 8/17/2022 5:58:20 PM

AMHERST – A young UMass women’s soccer team simmered in the pressure cooker last season.

The Minutewomen fielded 10 freshmen and 12 sophomores, and their talent and connection grew over the course of the year, culminating in an Atlantic 10 championship game berth. UMass’ top two scorers – and three out of its top four – were freshmen. The fourth was a sophomore.

“They jumped right into everything like two feet in the deep end,” UMass senior midfielder Olivia Gouldsbury said.

They’re all back, along with a core of five seniors that have witnessed the program’s upward trajectory since coach Jason Dowiak took over in 2017. The Minutewomen, which open the 2022 season at 4 p.m. Thursday against Albany, improved from seven wins his first season to 11 in 2018 and a conference tournament berth. They reached the conference quarterfinals in 2019 and the semifinals during the 2021 spring season. Last year’s title-game berth was their first since 2011. 

“We’ve been through it before,” senior midfielder Fiona Kane said.

That familiarity has bred connections both on and off the pitch. The intimacy in one area bleeds into the other and strengthens the team.

“If you obviously don't have a good connection off the field, how are you supposed to have a connection on the field?” said sophomore forward Chandler Pedolzky of Westfield. “Because we're all close and can gel, it helps us produce better.”

It’s the only way Dowiak’s system functions. He wants the Minutewomen to possess the ball 60-70 percent of the game. They won’t allow chances they’re not prepared for and will create them with their passing and movement. Making the right pass takes knowing which one to make and trusting your teammate will be where you need her.

“With experience comes confidence to know what you know and know how you want to do something,” Dowiak said.

He called this edition of the Minutewomen the most mature he’s ever coached. That’s physically, tactically and in overall approach. They’re bringing back second-team all-conference performers Lane and Ashley Lamond, while Pedolzky was named to the all-rookie team. Both keepers, Bella Mendoza and Meghan Olszewski, will return between the posts.

“That maturity, I think, is gonna be a big, big catalyst for us taking another step forward,” Dowiak said. “They know what we want, they know how we want to play, and it gets easier with more players on the field that have done it far more frequently.”

UMass was picked fifth in the preseason A-10 poll, while defending champion Saint Louis earned every possible first-place vote. The Minutewomen welcome Albany to Rudd Field on Thursday to open the season then visit Fairfield (Sunday), Pittsburgh (Aug. 25) and Robert Morris (Aug. 28). Their nonconference schedule rounds out with regional rivals Boston College (Sept. 1), UMass Lowell (Sept. 4) and Boston University (Sept. 8) at home before a trip to Harvard (Sept. 11). A-10 play begins with a trip to VCU on Sept. 15. UMass is making its first conference visit to new member Loyola Chicago on Oct. 20. It includes three NCAA Tournament teams from last year: Harvard, Loyola, Saint Louis

“It's balanced. We've peppered in games that we can hopefully grow some confidence and then go into these tougher opponents with a little bit more readiness, hopefully,” Dowiak said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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