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March 22, 2017

Offensive starting to produce for Minutemen

Jeff Bernstein/Daily Collegian

Since day one of the 2010 campaign, Massachusetts soccer coach Sam Koch has stressed the importance of incorporating offense into the Minutemen’s game plan.

Thursday afternoon’s match against Vermont saw the culmination of that idea.

Despite drawing, 2-2 against the Catamounts, the Minutemen played aggressively on the offensive side of the pitch throughout the entire match, taking 17 shots, four of which were on target.

“As far as getting shots, we got enough shots, [but] we just got to drop the shots against and prevent a few goals and win a few games,” senior midfielder Ben Arikian said. “Hopefully if we start clicking on defense, the games will start to go our way a little bit more.”

Koch was pleased at having his offensive game plan come to fruition against Vermont (4-1-3).

“I think that was the one bright side. We created chances, we did some good things,” Koch said.

While normally a heavily defensive team that waits until the second half to score its opening goals, the Minutemen (1-2-3) pushed early in the contest to gain an edge on the Catamounts.

“We’ve been talking a lot about getting the balls in the corners and moving the ball and not holding onto it for too long,” Arikian said.

Arikian led the offensive push early in the game, earning the assist on Andrew Henshaw’s goal. After the ball was served in by Tyler Cleverdon, Arikian went up for a header with a Vermont defender. Unknowing that there was a player behind him, Arikian connected his head with the ball right to Henshaw who cracked it in for the goal.

“I didn’t even know anyone was behind me,” Arikian said. “We both got to it, the ball just redirected on the right side of the goal and Drew put it away. It wasn’t really anything special, it happens, it’s just hard work. That’s what we’re about.”

Arikian took four shots in the opening half with one finding its way towards goal. With his assist in the match, the senior midfielder is one service shy of being tied for fourth all-time in assists for the Minutemen.

Recently, UMass has had trouble scoring in the opening half by going scoreless in its past three first halves. Against UVM, though, the Minutemen scored two goals coming in the opening 45 minutes, holding the lead going into halftime.

“The first half we did very well, then we got away from it in the second half,” Koch said. “It’s one of those things; we have a one goal lead and we don’t hold on to it. Give them credit, they came back and unfortunately we didn’t get it done, but the offense did well today.”

Chris Vaccaro, who came on as a substitution late in the game, also provided the surging offensive side. Vaccaro was a threat on the ball in the closing moments of the game, shooting on target for both of his shots taken.

Up next for the revived Minutemen offense will be against an undefeated New Hampshire, a team that has allowed two goals thus far this season.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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