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May 7, 2016

Minutemen earn draw in first contest

Collegian File Photo

Had it not been for a broken play in the defensive end, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team could have started its season with a victory instead of a tie.

Boston University scored the first goal of the contest early in the first half when a UMass defender botched a clearing attempt in its defensive zone. Scrambling to recover, the Minutemen received a tripping foul in the box, which led to a successful penalty kick for the Terriers.

“We gave up that penalty which put us in a bad position that we had to weasel out of,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “But we came back in the second half and I give [our players] a lot of credit for that.”

After halftime, the Minutemen wasted no time in leveling the score as midfielder Bryan Craft scored on a chip shot over Terrier goalie Brandon Briggs just 64 seconds into the half. Craft’s goal represented an effort that Koch wants repeated throughout the season as he looks for more of his players to contribute offensively.

“Craft on the flank is dangerous going forward,” Koch said prior to the season’s start. “He’s worked hard all summer from what he’s told us and he can have a huge impact scoring goals for us. We need him to help us score goals.”

Craft’s shot was one of the 13 taken by the Minutemen, three of which were on goal. BU registered 23 shots, with seven on goal.

“BU is a big, strong and hard-working team,” Koch said. “This team is also probably better than last year’s so they were tougher today.”

Koch praised his team for its passing and defense, but chastised it for its mistakes.

“As far as passing goes, I think we knocked the ball around pretty good,” Koch said. “We were able to switch fields well and we were successful in getting ourselves into good positions to create scoring chances. We were [also] able to defend well enough to cover our mistakes.”

A major player in the UMass defense was goalie Chris Piekos, who made two critical saves to preserve the tie late in the game. Piekos is coming off a stellar year where he posted four shutouts and was in the top 15 nationally for goals-against average (0.68) and save percentage (.868).

Koch figures Piekos to be an anchor in net for the Minutemen while the rest of the starting roster takes shape.

“It’s going to take time [to set the starting lineup],” Koch said. “There are some guys who have potential to have a big impact for the team and there are others who have some things to learn. We need to play a few more games to really be sure on where we’re going as far as who’s developing the fastest and who’s learning our system the fastest.”

The Minutemen return to action on Sept. 6, when they host Harvard for a 3 p.m. match at Rudd Field in Amherst.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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