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Minutemen head to Burlington for start of Smith Barney Classic Friday

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team has scored one goal in its first two games of the 2009 season. One contest ended in a tie, while the other ended in defeat.

“We didn’t play well on Saturday and that’s what we have to focus on,” said Sam Koch, UMass coach. “We have to focus on doing the things we need to do to be successful and do it for 90 minutes, and that’s what our focus is this weekend.”

The Minutemen hope to get back to producing offensively and get their first victory of the season when they take on New Hampshire Friday and Vermont Sunday in the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Classic, held in Burlington, Vt. Both games are slated for 1:30p.m.

“We need to make sure we’re getting shots on target and create opportunities, and against Hartford we didn’t,” Koch said.

UMass was outshot by the Hawks, 15-8 last Saturday, and fell 2-0 in its second game of the season. But, regardless of last week, Koch and the rest of the Minutemen are looking forward to the annual tournament hosted by UVM.

“You have to come to play and were going against two difficult teams,” Koch said. “UNH is big, they’re good in the air, they’re very physical [and] we haven’t beaten them in five years and they battle, and we’re going on a field that is not in great shape so it’s going to be more of an air game.”

UMass last defeated the Wildcats (1-2-0) back in September of 2003, with a 74th minute goal giving UMass the 1-0 victory and kept the then-Minutemen’s winning streak at five.

UNH fell to Central Connecticut State Sunday, 3-1, in the final of the 20th Annual UNH Nike Fall Classic, hosted by the Wildcats.

Last season, senior Mark DeSantis tallied UMass’s lone goal against the Wildcats, as UNH went on to win, 2-1.

The Catamounts (0-3-0) have yet to win a game, and have been outscored by opponents 5-2 in its first three matches this year.

“Yes, I want to win the tournament, yes, I want to win both games,” Koch said.

“But I’m more concerned about making sure that our guys are sticking in their roles and doing their jobs well, and I feel if we do that, we’re going to win games.”

Some roles on the Minutemen’s team are still undecided, with Koch still rotating redshirt sophomore Shane Curran-Hays and junior Chris Piekos as goalkeeper.

UMass fell to Hartford on Saturday, 2-0, as Curran-Hays made five saves in the loss.

“[Curran-Hays] made a couple of great saves,” Koch said. “He made one short stop that was as good as any I have seen. He gave up two goals, but he didn’t have much help defensively.”

Piekos was impressive against a nationally-ranked BU squad Sep. 1, recording seven saves including three in the second overtime of a game that would end in a 1-1 draw. Regarding both keepers, Koch made clear that it is still undecided on which one will get the starting nod.

“It’s a battle between the two, and this weekend, they’ll both play and we’ll decide after the weekend where they are.”

The defense for UMass has allowed an average of 18.5 shots per game, while the offense has averaged nine shots per game.

Because classics are similar to regular season games with a Friday-Sunday schedule, Koch may look to incorporate a variety of different players, including some freshman into the game plan against the Catamounts, depending on the situation.

“Whether we’ll play as many, I don’t think so, but I don’t know, because you have to go game by game and see what happens.”

After the classic, the Minutemen have a week off before hitting the road again against Northeastern on Sept. 19 in a game slated for 6 p.m.

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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