Scrolling Headlines:

UMass hockey fails to generate scoring chances in 3-0 loss to Notre Dame Saturday -

December 4, 2016

UMass men’s basketball shooting woes continue as the Minutemen fall 65-62 to UCF -

December 3, 2016

Despite poor shooting performance, UMass men’s basketball shows improvement on defensive end -

December 3, 2016

Notebook: Ty Flowers shines in UMass men’s basketball’s loss to UCF Saturday -

December 3, 2016

Ray Pigozzi shines in first game back for the UMass hockey team since November 4 -

December 2, 2016

UMass starts hot, finishes strong in upset win over No. 12 Notre Dame -

December 2, 2016

SGA vice president will resign at the end of the semester -

December 2, 2016

Raise the Flag protestors praise -

December 2, 2016

Dining and Housekeeping employees at Smith College seek new contract -

December 1, 2016

In response to election, immigration lawyer briefs students on potential changes -

December 1, 2016

Avinoam Patt discusses the role of displaced Jews in the creation of Israel -

December 1, 2016

UMass women’s basketball falls to Hartford, snaps three-game winning streak -

December 1, 2016

Brison Gresham makes long awaited debut for UMass men’s basketball -

December 1, 2016

UMass hockey hosts No. 12 Notre Dame in Hockey East doubleheader -

December 1, 2016

UMass men’s basketball picks up fourth straight win as it tops Wagner Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

December 1, 2016

UMass hockey gets chance to bond during trip to Belfast -

December 1, 2016

The true backbone of America -

December 1, 2016

Letter: Craig’s Place to fight against fatal budget cuts -

December 1, 2016

Enduring the 2016 Tower Run at Du Bois Library -

December 1, 2016

C.J. Anderson, Malik Hines each have career nights in UMass men’s basketball’s win over Wagner -

November 30, 2016

UMass’ defense remains a light on the horizon for men’s soccer

Four games into the 2013 season, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team boasts a defense that is leagues ahead of the team’s offensive production.

As is the case with many young teams, offensive chemistry cannot be acquired overnight. There’s a learning curve associated with picking up the tendencies of other players and the speed of the game. UMass found this out all too well at the beginning of the season when they were held scoreless in its first three games.

Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian

But the Minutemen remained competitive due to an aggressive defensive attack, which stretched Evansville to a scoreless double-overtime tie and Bradley to a 1-0 overtime loss. The effort continued the following weekend, as UMass only allowed one goal to New Hampshire before taking a step backward and allowing three goals to Vermont.

Nevertheless, coach Sam Koch is pleased with his squad’s defensive approach, knowing that sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective.

“There’s no defensive scheme per say; it’s more just the basic principles of how to defend,” he said. “We’ve got to close them down quickly, which we do. We’ve got to force them to the weak side and force them to play quicker than they want.”

Opponents have appeared uncomfortable against UMass so far, scoring only five goals despite firing off 68 shot attempts. Koch is pleased with his team’s ability to limit high-percentage shots.

“I give credit to (goalkeeper Nick Ruiz’s) back four in front of him,” he said. “They did a good job making a lot of the shots very predictable which made it easier for him.”

Much of the defensive strategy is focused on forcing opposing teams to do things they potentially haven’t practiced or feel uncomfortable doing.

“Defense is more about making it more difficult for the other team to play and not ever let them get comfortable,” Koch said. “I think that’s what our guys are really doing well.”

The main beneficiary of the defensive pressure is redshirt freshman goalkeeper Nick Ruiz, who won the Atlantic 10 Men’s Soccer Rookie of the Week award last week. He has 28 saves on the season and has spent a considerable amount of playing time under pressure.

“A lot of credit goes to him,” Koch said. “He’s had to make some really tough saves and he’s made them and he’s done an unbelievable job holding onto the ball. He hasn’t given up hardly any rebounds. When you do that, you’re gonna do well.”

Rebounds take on an even higher level of importance when opposing teams spend a majority of the game on the attack. The Minutemen are currently doubled up in shots, allowing 68 while scoring only 34. Koch hopes the team’s defense will create more chances for its offense.

“We press very quickly, put them under pressure quickly,” he said. “If they do make a bad pass, we’re quick to pick those off and start our own attack.”

Koch went on, knowing there’s still room for improvement in a winless team.

“We’ve got to be a little better on our fronting, which we’re working on all the time, and take advantage of the opportunity that they give us to get balls in behind them and attack quickly,” he said.

With the defense holding strong, the offense has more opportunity to play catch-up.

“It seems like we’ve gotten over the hump offensively,” Koch said on his team’s most recent two-goal performance. “We’re creating better opportunities. Now we just have to finish them.”

The Minutemen will get a chance to showcase these improvements on Wednesday when they host Hartford at Rudd Field.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

 

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