For the Massachusetts men’s soccer team to earn its first win of the season, it needed two freshmen, Tyler Cleverdon and Brett Canepa, to score their first goals of their respective collegiate careers.
When UMass faced off against Central Florida on Friday afternoon, the Minutemen found themselves down early in the second half after a scoreless opening 45 minutes. The Golden Knights (2-3) stayed on top until Canepa headed the ball into the back of the net off a cross from midfielder Ben Arikian.
“I was just trying to get the ball in the back of the net,” Canepa said following the game. “I saw Ben get into the end-line and I ran to the back post and put a perfect ball at my head and I was there. [I was] just trying to get the ball in [the] frame.”
Immediately after earning the goal, the other players in Maroon and White rushed the field to congratulate the freshman forward.
“They were giving me crap about scoring,” Canepa said. “I was just trying to put the ball into the back of the net.”
Cleverdon was just as excited over Canepa’s goal as he was for his own, which he netted later in the contest.
“It was a great goal, a great header. He was right where he should have been, it was a great ball in,” Cleverdon said. “He did everything technically perfect, he hooked it right into the goal and it was perfect.”
With the score equal going into the final minute of play, both sides were preparing for extra time to settle the score. Sophomore Morgan Brandso thought differently as he played the ball into a soaring Cleverdon, who headed a screamer into the back of the net.
“Did that really just happen?” Cleverdon said of his initial reaction to the goal. “Morgan played a great ball in and I knew I could get on the end of it and I was happy he did so well.”
An elated Cleverdon scurried around the field, overjoyed by his game-winning goal. His fellow Minutemen appeared just as psyched, as they tackled him into the grass in celebration.
“It was all pretty much a blur, I mean everyone was just so happy,” Cleverdon said. “I knew I was, so I didn’t hear much except congrats, nice job, and get another one for next time.”
Canepa didn’t hold back on his admiration for Cleverdon’s goal after the game.
“That was great, that was awesome,” Canepa said. “I saw the cross, I knew Tyler was going to get up because he wins every ball, and he put the ball in the net and went crazy.”
Against Indiana on Sunday, Cleverdon and Canepa both competed in the contest. While Cleverdon started his fifth-straight match, Canepa came on later in the game as a substitution and had a shot on goal.
While there are still freshmen who have yet to compete for the Minutemen, Cleverdon still believes that the entire group of Class of 2014 players have depth and strength.
“I’m really happy with the freshmen this year,” Cleverdon said. “We have a strong group that pushes the first team very, very hard. Everyone’s very competitive and playing for that starting position and it only makes our team stronger. So we have definitely a great freshman group coming off the bench and working very hard in practice.”
Canepa and Cleverdon are a part of a freshman class that UMass coach Sam Koch boasts as extremely competitive and hard working. Koch claimed that the freshmen players are getting better each week at practice.
“Yeah it’s awesome, we have great team chemistry,” Canepa said. “I like the freshman that came in this year, it’s been awesome.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.