The Massachusetts men’s soccer season finale on Sunday afternoon pretty much defined all of the struggles the team has faced throughout the course of the season.
On Senior Day, the Minutemen (4-13-2, 2-5-2 Atlantic 10) dropped a 1-0 contest to Rhode Island (7-10-1, 4-4-1 A-10) at Rudd Field as URI’s Franco Lo Presti scored his second goal of the season in the 58th minute of the contest.
The theme was the same as it has been all season for UMass as it failed to score a goal despite a plethora of opportunities.
The Minutemen unloaded 17 shots that afternoon, including five in a 1:30 minute span during the second half, with many of the shots narrowly eluding the goal.
Sunday’s shutout marked the 11th game this season in which UMass failed to score a goal – it scored just a total of nine goals all year.
“We did a really good job creating a bunch of opportunities,” said senior captain David Key. “It’s frustrating though that’s kind of been the story of the whole season we haven’t been able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
The first half was completely dominated by the Rams as they outshot the Minutemen, 8-3, and possessed the ball for the majority of the time.
URI had two real scoring opportunities in the half with the first coming in the 28th minute when Rhode Island possessed the ball in the UMass defensive zone. Reece Markman shot a bouncing ball towards the net from the 18, which traveled right to Ross Morrison who stood just feet away from Minuteman goalie Shane Curran-Hays. Morrison redirected the shot with his right foot, but UMass caught a break when the deflection went right into the arms of Curran-Hays.
Their second and best opportunity of the half came with just six remaining until halftime. The near goal was a result of some miscommunication between Curran-Hays and UMass defender Matt Keys. Curran-Hays and Keys each converged on a Rams cross with Curran-Hays sprawling to catch the ball, but Keys stepped in front of the goalie and headed the ball directly to URI’s Mike Casey who was staring at a an empty net.
However, a Minuteman defender blocked Casey’s shot and UMass escaped the half without allowing a goal.
The second half started with a barrage of shots from the Minutemen. They attempted seven shots in the first seven minutes of the first half. Shortly after UMass’ offensive outburst, the Rams countered with the first goal of the game.
The goal started with a Matt Ribbens corner kick that cleared the UMass defense, and caused a hectic scramble in front of the net. Lo Presti got in the middle of the scrum and headed in the game-winning goal.
“The ball was played to the back post, we didn’t clear it, Shane made the save and wasn’t able to hold onto it, it bounced free and they got on the end of it, we just weren’t able to clear the ball,” said UMass coach Sam Koch.
From this point on, the air was taken out of the sails of the Minutemen and they were unable to equalize the score at one.
Both goalies were strong in the net as Curran-Hays stopped eight shots, while Peyton Warwick registered the shutout, making four saves.
“I thought he did a great job, he made one great save on the breakaway, and it’s unfortunate for him to play as well as he did and end up with a loss to end his career,” said Koch of senior Curran-Hays.
Sunday’s game marked the last of the careers of Bryant Craft, Curran-Hays, Michael Doherty, Chris Gilbert, Andrew Henshaw, Clifton Kipper and Chris Roswess.
Among these seniors, Koch was particularly pleased with the efforts of Kipper in Sunday’s game.
“He played very well, that’s the best game he’s played all year,” said Koch. “It was great to see him play that well in his last game of his career.”
UMass earned eight conference points over the course of the season, leaving them in 12th place in the 14-team conference.
While the Minutemen were simply playing for pride, the Rams had a possible playoff berth on the line Sunday. However, their postseason aspirations were dashed when Temple defeated La Salle. If La Salle had managed a win versus Temple, Rhode Island would have been the sixth team in the A-10 tournament.
Key contributors on offense Brett Canepa and Roswess were held out of Sunday’s game with injuries.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at email@example.com or can be followed on twitter @MDC_Alexander.