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Corner kicks nearly cost Minutemen undefeated weekend

Even though the Massachusetts men’s soccer team remains undefeated after the first weekend of Atlantic 10 play, it came very close to losing off clusters of corner kicks from both Xavier and Dayton.

“Corner kicks are sort of a funny thing,” UMass coach Sam Koch said following the match against Dayton. “Yeah it means that you’re getting the ball down our end, [but] the balls going off one of our players instead of your players.”

In both matches against the Musketeers (4-3-3, 1-1-0 A-10) and the Flyers (0-0-2, 4-4-3 A-10), UMass forfeited a higher amount of corner kicks than most of its non-conference games. The only other times it gave off a higher amount of corner kicks was against Dartmouth (12) and Fairfield (eight). Both games ended in double-overtime draws.

Giving up fewer corner kicks has served UMass (2-3-6, 1-0-1 A-10) well in the past such as its victory over Central Florida, the Maroon and White sacrificed one corner kick.

Thus far in the 2010 campaign, the Minutemen have given up 59 corner kicks, with 15 of them coming in the first two A-10 matches alone. While it has given goalkeeper Chris Piekos extra saves to add to his score sheets, the corner kicks are opening doorways for the opposition to score.

To put it in perspective, by the end of the 2009 regular season, the Minutemen sacrificed 67 corner kicks to its opponents, compared to the 59 they allowed through the first weekend of A-10 play. UMass is allowing an average of just over five corner kicks a game this season, and will likely break last year’s statistic.

Furthermore, UMass has let up 11-of-15 corners in the second half of its two games, and three in the overtime periods. In the final 45 minutes against both the Flyers and the Musketeers, the Minutemen sacrificed a continual series of corner kicks that lasted for upwards of six and seven minutes, respectively.

“I don’t want to give up that many, and I rather not have them down that end, but [in] the second half they got down there,” Koch said. “And those are some of things we’ve got to work on.”

Defensive leader Dominic Skrawjewski tried to keep his fellow defensive players weary as the corner kicks kept coming in the second half against XU.

“I was just trying to tell them to call down,” Skrajewski said. “We got stretched a lot in the second half, we got out-shot, out-worked, we probably had one of our worst halves we’ve ever played.”

On the flip side, the Minutemen have yet to give up a goal from the corner kick, just as they did last season.

UMass also has had 50 of its own corner kicks without converting any of them. Following the opening weekend, the Minutemen ranked fourth in the A-10 in corner kicks taken behind St. Bonaventure, Charlotte and Rhode Island.

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

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