Rams come to Rudd in A-10 rivalry match-up
The Massachusetts men’s soccer team and Rhode Island played the same opponents last weekend in the second week of Atlantic 10 play. While the Rams defeated both teams, the Minutemen came away with one win, and will look to keep their momentum rolling when they take on URI Saturday afternoon at Rudd Field.
“Teams play differently on different days,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “You have so many different elements in a team. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make comparisons, because you never know.”
The Minutemen (5-4-3, 2-2-0 A-10) are coming off a 2-0 victory over Saint Joseph’s Sunday afternoon, as junior midfielder Stuart Amick and sophomore defender Andrew Henshaw scored two goals in the second half to give UMass the victory.
Before the win over the Hawks, UMass suffered two one goal double-overtime losses at the hands of Temple and Dayton.
Both Amick and Henshaw, along with junior midfielder Ben Arikian were affective in picking up the offensive load for the Minutemen against SJU, despite not having their strongest offensive threat. Senior forward Mark DeSantis sat out the past four games due to an undisclosed illness.
He returned to the team this week, and did light jogging with the team, but DeSantis is still out indefinitely. Koch expects to find more information on the forward’s availability tomorrow.
Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Shane-Curran Hays started in the net against the Hawks, earning his second career shutout, making three saves.
URI (5-7-1, 2-2-0 A-10) is coming off two victories over both SJU and Temple last weekend, defeating the Hawks 3-0 last Friday and the Owls 4-1 on Sunday. The win over Temple snapped the Owls six game winning streak, who had allowed just three goals in its last six outings, including their shutout of the Minutemen last weekend.
UMass and URI are tied for seventh place in the A-10 with two wins and two losses in the conference, while the Minutemen have a better overall record.
“It doesn’t matter what your record is, because it’s going to be a good game,” Koch said. “All the games are end-to-end, no matter what and they had some unbelievable players back in 2007, so the rivalry has always been there.”
The Rams are lead by a trio of scorers in midfielder Gary Crooks, forward Erkko Puranen and Greg Balicki. Crooks leads URI with four goals with just 13 shots, including one assist, while Puranen and Balicki are tied for second with three goals and one assist. Besides these three, the Rams have seven players with one goal on their roster, which will pose another challenge for UMass.
Koch is familiar with Baliki’s offensive talent, as he scored one of three goals, which proved to be the game winner against the Minutemen back in 2007 en route to a 3-1 win for URI on Oct. 27 of that year.
“It’s a different group, but still, that rivalry is still there,” Koch said. “The excitement of the conference and the winner of this game being in good shape will hopefully motivate us to play well.”
While the Minutemen rely on their sturdy defensive play and consistent goalkeeping, UMass must keep URI at bay while generating offensive production, with or without DeSantis.
The last time the Rams visited Rudd Field was last season, in the UMass Invitational. The two teams did not face each other in the tournament.
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.