It was a weekend of firsts for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team.
Not only did the Minutemen earn back-to-back road victories for the first time since 2008, but UMass remains unbeaten through six-straight games, which has not happened since last season.
On Sunday, the Minutemen (5-3-6, 4-0-1 Atlantic 10) finished their weekend with a strong 1-0 finish over Saint Joseph’s, thanks to Bryant Craft’s fifth goal of the year. Craft stands alone on the offensive scale for the Maroon and White, as he has 12 points thanks to his five goals and pair of assists.
“Today’s game was played much better,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “I felt comfortable how we were playing the whole game.”
Craft’s goal wouldn’t have been possible without midfielder Ben Arikian, who earned the assist on the game-winning goal. Arikian now stands alone as fourth all-time in career assists, and is one shy of moving up to third, and five away from being tied with Yuri Morales, who holds the record for most assists as a Minuteman.
Koch wasn’t shy about expressing his delight with the UMass offense’s presence against the Hawks (2-11-0, 1-4-0 A-10), as they out-shot SJU 19-12.
“We moved the ball better, we didn’t give [away] the ball as much, we possessed it better,” Koch said. “Something about today’s game is we didn’t finish our chances, and we had a lot of good opportunities to score and we didn’t finish them until nine minutes left.”
Goalkeeper Chris Piekos had another strong performance in the net for UMass, saving three shots to earn his fifth shutout of the year.
Piekos’ fourth shutout came on Friday, when UMass finished off Temple, 1-0, in a game which featured another first in freshman Connor DeVivo’s first collegiate goal.
“We certainly liked the result,” Koch said. “We didn’t play that well, but we found a way to win.”
Piekos played a similar game on Friday, when he saved five of Temple’s 13 shots. The mighty defensive effort by the Minutemen wouldn’t have meant anything had it not been for the surprise goal by DeVivo.
DeVivo, who has played in three games in the 2010 season, scored his first collegiate goal against the Owls (4-7-2, 2-2-0 A-10) in the 61st minute.
For Koch, the goal capped off a game that the Minutemen narrowly escaped.
“It was one of those games when the game’s over [you] get on the bus as quick as you can and get out of there so they don’t change the score,” Koch said.
UMass felt a dominant performance by the Temple offense, suffering a 13-5 shot margin. Piekos and the Minutemen defense had to compete against four shots by Tyler Witmer, three of which were on goal, and then another three shots by Ryan Bradbury. Also contributing to the Temple attack were Cody Calafiore, Max Kinderwater and Vaughn Spurrier, who all had a pair of shots.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.