Skrajewski a star starter

For most freshmen, playing collegiate soccer is an adjustment that takes time and energy in order for a player to develop. A lot of rookies hardly see the field their first year, sitting behind more experienced players in order to learn the system.

But for freshman Dominic Skrajewski of the Massachusetts soccer team, this is not the case, as the defender has been beneficial for the Minutemen on both sides of the ball in his first year in Amherst.

“It feels great, I mean, I came in here, not really expecting this, but I have been working hard, and glad to get the chance, and to take advantage of it,” Skrajewski said.

Skrajewski played in all seven games in 2009, starting in six, and has made his presence known even in a crowded backfield that is loaded with talent.

A little more than half of the Minutemen roster is filled with returning players, with eight, including Skrajewski, freshmen members. Four sophomores play defense, with three starting and one who contributes regularly.

The backfield is filled with loads of underclassmen talent that has put the Minutemen on their backs, especially when the team was not producing offensively earlier in the season.

Through its first four games, the Minutemen generated just two goals, while tying Boston University, New Hampshire and Vermont in double overtime.

UMass fell to Hartford, 2-0, on Sept. 5.

David Key, Mark Dangleis and Andrew Henshaw make up a consistent backfield that has shut out opponents in its past four contests, and with goalkeepers Chris Piekos and Shane Curran-Hays forming a sturdy tandem, the Minutemen are continuing to get better both offensively and defensively

Part of that comes with Skrajewski’s maturity and knack for the game, as he was named to the Delaware first team all-state while attending the Salesianum School.

In Tuesdays 3-0 win over Colgate, he scored his first collegiate goal against the Raiders, playing a major impact on both the offensive and defensive fronts.

“It feels awesome [to score my first career goal], because there was really no pressure to score,” Skrajewski said. “I am a defender, I go in for corners, but I just cleaned up the box, so it felt good.”

Skrajewski scored when forward Mark DeSantis laced a corner kick that was deflected by the Raiders goalkeeper, and went right to Andrew Henshaw. Henshaw collected the ball, drifting it to Skrajewski for the one-time score.

“He’s done a great job in the back for us, to come in as a freshman and start is not an easy thing to do, especially in the back,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “It hasn’t fazed him, he has handled it very well, and when it’s a 50-50 ball, he’s going to win it, and he does it as well as anybody.”

Skrajewski had two shots against Northeastern back on Sept. 19, but it was midfielder Ben Arikian who scored the lone goal in the 1-0 victory. Since that game, the Minutemen have outscored opponents, 8-0, which shows how UMass has been developing its offensive game.

The win against Colgate was Koch’s 200th career win as the coach of the Minutemen, while UMass is currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak.

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

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