It was not the storybook ending that the Massachusetts men’s soccer team had in mind this season after approaching the year with such high expectations.
After entering the final week of the season on the outside looking in for the final Atlantic 10 tournament spot, the Minutemen (5-11-2, 2-7 A-10) needed two wins on the road against Dayton and No. 15/17 Xavier to have even the slightest chance of making the tournament.
Instead, UMass got shut out in both games, losing 2-0 to the Flyers (11-5-1, 5-3-1 A-10) Friday and with its chances all but gone, got pummeled 5-0 by the Musketeers (13-1-4, 6-1-2 A-10) Sunday, ending a rather disappointing season for the Minutemen.
“We had pretty big expectations coming in,” junior defenseman Josh Gosselin said. “We came in knowing that we had 14 freshmen and, that this year was not so much going to be a rebuilding year, but we had plans to make the A-10 tournament.”
UMass began the season with a respectable 3-4-2 record, before dropping seven of nine conference games to close out the season.
UMass’ inexperience could turn into a good thing because it allows room for player growth. However, it does not serve well for immediate success.
UMass will bid farewell to Brian Frame, Dominic Skrajewski, Hellah Sidibe and Kellen Rauch, who are graduating. UMass coach Sam Koch feels especially bad for Frame and Skrajewski, two guys who worked extremely hard for all four years at UMass.
“Frame made a couple of great saves (Sunday) and he’s had a great year,” Koch said following Sunday’s loss. He’s been a real bright spot and for him to go out this way, I feel bad for the effort he put in.
“And Dom is a two-year captain and he played his heart out on (Sunday). He was, visually, very upset at the end of the game because he put everything into it. I feel very bad for those two. I’m proud of both of them.”
Frame was the foundation to this year’s team, finally getting a chance to start in goal after being the backup for three years. Frame played all but seven minutes this season, posting a 1.66 goals-against average and a .733 save percentage in his first year as a starter.
“A lot can be said about (Frame), who’s been a backup for three years, comes in this year and has the season of his life,” Gosselin said. “He was our backbone all year.”
One bright spot for UMass will be the return of sophomore Josh Schwartz next season. Schwartz led the team in goals and points this season, accumulating five goals and 12 points in 18 games. His strong play in his first two years has earned him high praise from the seniors.
“The future is looking real well for him,” Skrajewski said. “He came in last season and he was buzzing around. … In the next two years I think I can see him taking a leadership role on this team and a leading scorer in the Atlantic10, I believe, just as he matures and grows up.”
Aside from Schwartz, the Minutemen will also be returning its next three leading scorers next season – sophomore Matt Keys and junior Brett Canepa, who finished tied for second in points with six. They will be joined by junior Connor DeVivo, who was tied for fourth with four points this season.
All four of those players will be crucial for next year’s team to meet the expectations that it sets for itself, as UMass will once again boast a young team. This year’s club only had five juniors on its team, so the bulk of the roster next year will consist of current freshmen and sophomores.
“We’ve got to make sure that we get better every week of the offseason so this (season) doesn’t happen again,” Koch said. “We’re a better team than this, but we didn’t show it. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.