UMass-Boston women’s soccer kicks off season with 7-game winning streak
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UMass Boston taps area’s soccer legacy
The University of Massachusetts Boston women’s soccer team pulled off three dramatic victories to preserve a program-record seven-game winning streak to start the season.
And the Beacons are receiving major contributions from players with ties to area communities.
On Sept. 8, senior captain Megan O’Connell of Abington, who sat out last season with a back injury, converted a header in the second overtime for a 1-0 victory over the University of New England.
Three days later, junior Sam Cristoforo of Rockland erased a 1-0 deficit against Western New England, setting the stage for the winner with 10 seconds left to play by the team’s leading scorer, Krista Ledin, a sophomore from Bridgewater and last season’s Little East Conference and ECAC New England Rookie of the Year.
A fifth straight win was assured Sept. 13 with three second-half goals against Bridgewater State, which had taken a 2-0 lead into the break.
Sophomore Amanda Pugliese, a Pembroke High grad, assisted on the first goal. Ledin tied it on a penalty kick, and then, with just over five minutes left, fed junior forward Tayla Andrews (Plymouth South) who passed to Cristoforo for a half-volley goal that proved to be the game-winner.
“We’re a more balanced team this season and we dig down deep to win no matter what the score,’’ said head coach Amy Zombeck. “Krista is an explosive player who knows how to finish and has the speed to outrun the players marking her, Tayla has become a complete player with great field vision, and Sam is dynamic with great foot skills and controls the midfield.’’
Zombeck said O’Connell provides a spark that picks up her teammates, and Pugliese is a fluid player who has emerged as an offensive threat.
“I’ve played with and against some of my teammates before coming here,’’ said O’Connell, one of three sisters coached at Cardinal Spellman High in Brockton by Mike Perry.
“Last year, even though I couldn’t play, it gave me a different perspective and a better feel for the system from the bench. There’s such a great camaraderie this season, and that made my overtime goal and being a captain even more special,’’ O’Connell said.
On Monday, Cristoforo was named Little East Offensive Player of the Week after tallying eight points in three games. She ranked third in team scoring (4 goals, 5 assists) behind Ledin (9 goals, 5 assists) and Andrews (8 goals, 5 assists). Pugliese was fourth (3 goals, 4 assists) heading into Saturday’s game at Rhode Island College.
A victory would break a tie with the 2010 women’s volleyball team for the second longest winning streak to begin a season in school history. The 1997 men’s lacrosse team holds the record with 11 straight out of the gate.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kristen Spain of Quincy (Archbishop Williams) was 6-0 with three shutouts, including win No. 7 on Tuesday, 5-0, over Fitchburg State. She extended her scoreless streak to 230 minutes and 32 seconds.
The Beacons won despite the absence of Ledin, who was ill. The career scoring leader at West Bridgewater High, she set program single-season records last fall with 23 goals and 50 points.
Spain, a redshirt transfer from Division 1 Francis Marion University, said it was nice to be reunited with players she had known, including former club teammate Pugliese and O’Connell, a rival in high school.
“It’s been exciting. I wasn’t sure I would start, and now I’m part of what our coach calls a blue-collar team. We’re building confidence and momentum,’’ said Spain, a two-year captain and all-state player in high school. “I’m happy I came here and to have another chance to be a leader and part of a successful team.’’
Zombeck said Spain brings a high soccer IQ to the pitch and noted that as far as technique, “she’s one of the best goalkeepers we’ve ever had here. She’s aggressive and intimidating.’’
Ten players representing seven area high schools are on the roster, some of whom played club soccer for assistant coach Greg Visinho, a former girls’ soccer coach at Silver Lake Regional.
Rounding out the list are junior starting midfielder Julie Nutting ( 4 assists), Cristoforo’s classmate at Rockland High; junior midfielder/defender Kylie Kilmain (Braintree High); and two freshmen, midfielder Samantha Fallon of Pembroke (Williston Northampton School) and defender Caroline Spada (Quincy High).
Here and there Worcester State University sophomore Alyssa Jasper (Rockland High) was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Player of the Week for women’s volleyball. Jasper, an All-New England track performer last spring, was sixth in the MASCAC through last weekend in total kills (76) and ninth in kills per set (2.17). She was an all-conference second team volleyball selection last year, and received the school’s Freshman Athlete Award. . . . Babson College senior Eric Anderson of Scituate was honored as the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week for men’s soccer. . . . Quincy super-featherweight Ryan Kielczweski (13-0, 2 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line against Jeremy McLaurin (9-3, 5 KOs) in an eight-rounder Saturday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
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