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DeSantis to return to lineup Friday

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team received news this week that its leading scorer and captain will return to the playing field at home this weekend against Duquesne and St. Bonaventure.

For UMass coach Sam Koch and the Minutemen (5-5-3, 2-3-0 Atlantic 10), inserting senior forward Mark DeSantis back into the lineup could not come at a better time.

DeSantis officially returned to full practice this week with the team after being limited to light jogging last week, with his minutes on Friday being determined by his conditioning.

“We will see how he is doing,” Koch said. “Can he play 90 minutes, probably not, but he’s going to be able to play.”

DeSantis has yet to play in a conference game this season, but leads UMass with three goals in eight games. The Minutemen have gone 2-3-0 without him in A-10 play, but will look to get back on track with DeSantis’s help in conference play against a physical Dukes team.

“They’re extremely hard-working and a physical team, and we have a tough game on our hands,” Koch said.

The Dukes (8-5-2, 3-2-1 A-10) are coming off back-to-back shutout wins against Saint Josephs and Temple, outscoring both teams 5-0 in the two-game match-up. They also lead the A-10 in fouls, averaging 14.67 per game.

UMass defeated the Hawks 2-0 but fell in double overtime to the Owls 1-0 earlier this month.

If the Minutemen win against the Dukes, they will move ahead in the tiebreaker and will get closer to qualifying for the conference tournament.

“We can take care of our own destiny if we just keep on winning, but we have to make sure we move the ball quickly and understand the energy and the physicality of the game,” Koch said.

Moving the ball quickly and efficiently will have to be a top priority for the Minutemen, along with the defense continuing to play well while generating scoring opportunities.

UMass is still first in the A-10 in goals allowed average (0.62), goals against average (0.57) and is tied for second in shutouts (6), behind the Dukes, who have nine.

“The defense has played really well, but we’ve given up some soft goals, so we have to eliminate that lack of focus,” Koch said.

The Minutemen will look to neutralize freshman forward Joshua Patterson, who leads the Dukes with six goals, and is sixth in the conference in both goals and goals per game (0.43).

“We have to be aware of him,” Koch said. “We have to focus on where he is at all times when we don’t have possession of the ball, we need to close him down quickly and make it hard for him to turn.”

Along with Patterson, junior midfielder Ben Horner is someone who can generate offense, ranking third in the A-10 in shots with 47, while Tyler Tompkins and Alex Trujillo have three goals and two goals, and one assist each, respectively.

Last season, the defense again was huge for the Minutemen, as UMass and the Dukes played to a 0-0 double overtime draw. In the tie, goalkeeper Zack Simmons recorded his school-record 26 career shutout.

The Bonnies (7-6-0, 3-2-0) travel to Rudd on Sunday after beating the Hawks 2-0 on the road. An Oct. 16 match-up against Dayton was rained out, and will be played on Nov. 8, the last game of the season for the Bonnies before the A-10 tournament. They are led by senior forward Sam Maheu, who is first on the team with nine goals and five assists.

Friday’s game begins at 12 p.m. and Sundays begins at 1 p.m.

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

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