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Piekos, Amick help Koch to 200th win at UMass

msocBThe win over Colgate on Tuesday signified more than an arrival of an offense waiting to break out. It also meant Massachusetts men’s soccer coach Sam Koch’s 200th victory in his 19th season with UMass.

His 200th career win was on October 3, 2003 in a 3-0 win over George Washington and Koch continues to produce winning seasons on a regular basis. Out of 19 years as head coach, 14 have been winning seasons while coaching two All-Americans at UMass in Jeff Deren (2001, 2002) and Zack Simmons (2007).

Koch recently established himself as one of the best coaches in collegiate soccer as a back-to-back NSCAA National Coach of the Year Finalist with a lifetime coaching record of 258-186-51. He has also coached three teams to NCAA Tournaments including a College Cup in 2007, where the Minutemen pulled off an upset over No. 1 seeded Boston College.

His success at Rudd Field has given his team a distinct advantage at home, earning the name “Fort Rudd” as UMass boasts a 65-21-9 home record in the past 10 years.

Koch’s teams have made the Atlantic 10 tournament 11 times, with four regular season championships and two tournament championships. 

His success has come from preaching a defensive-minded style of play, which has been the biggest strength for the Minutemen. They have currently allowed the fewest goals (four) of any team in the A-10 with one game left in the non-conference schedule.

Piekos among nation’s best

Asking anyone to follow former goalkeeper Simmon’s career with the Minutemen is no easy task. Asking a former third-string keeper to be among collegiate soccer’s best is even more of a stretch.

Enter Chris Piekos, who after sitting behind Simmons as a freshman is now among the best keepers in the NCAA with the top save percentage (.955) and has one of the best goals-against averages (0.22) in college soccer. He has also helped the Minutemen (3-1-3) to three of their four shutouts this season.

In the A-10, Piekos is No. 1 in both goals-against average and save percentage, all while maintaining an undefeated record. Piekos’s three shutouts are second in the A-10, to Duquesne’s Colin Thorp (four).

Piekos’s first and only goal allowed of the season was on Sept. 1 against then-No. 24 Boston University, who tied UMass, 1-1.

Amick move paying off

Since the beginning of the year, Koch wanted to play junior Stuart Amick at his natural position in the midfield, but wasn’t sure if he had enough depth on defense to make the move.

But with the way the defense has been performing, the Minutemen aren’t in need of much help in the back with a 0.52 goals-against average. Putting Amick at midfield has created several advantages for UMass with the game against the Raiders being his best example of what he brings to the team.

Amick got his first assist of the season to put the Minutemen up 3-0 after he dribbled past a defender only to be cornered between the goal line and the defender. After having his first shot deflected, he found forward Mark DeSantis on a cross.

“He’s probably one of our best attacking midfielders and being able to put him in the midfield only makes him more dangerous,” Koch said on moving Amick to midfield. “He goes forward as well as anyone we have and what he does even better is get on the end of crosses from the off-ball side. He gets the balls that not too many people can get to.”      

Adam Miller can be reached at ajmil0@student.umass.edu.

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