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UMass men’s soccer keep playoff hopes alive with win over GW

Nicole Evangelista/ Collegian

With the Massachusetts men’s soccer team’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Matt Keys patiently waited for the right time to strike.

That moment came in the 86th minute when the junior connected with a volley from outside of the 18-yard box and served it through heavy traffic and into the top-right corner of the net, giving UMass a 2-1 win over George Washington.

“Time was winding down and I saw the ball go into the box and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a head on it first,” Keys said. “So I kind of stayed outside of the 18 [yard box] and I told Josh [Schwartz], ‘Hey, if they head it out, leave it,’ and they headed it out right to me and it was in the air and I just shot it.”

The goal was his third of the season, but neither of his previous two had the impact that Sunday’s game-winner had. After losing Friday night to Fordham, the Minutemen (3-12-1, 2-3 Atlantic 10) were in desperate need of a victory Sunday in order to keep their conference tournament hopes alive.

The game got off to a shaky start for UMass, as the Colonials (5-7-2, 2-1-2 A-10) scored just two minutes into the contest, instantly putting the Minutemen on their heels.

“You gotta check to see how everybody is,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “It’s been a tough season and sometimes that’s all it takes to click somebody off. But everybody stayed focused.”

The defense tightened up and allowed the rest of the team to get back in the game.

Just before the halftime break, Keys took a shot off a free kick that George Washington goalie Luke Farrell stopped, but the rebound went right to Connor DeVivo and he slotted it home to tie the game at 1-1 as the two teams went into halftime.

As the second half opened, UMass carried the majority of the play, but wasn’t rewarded. Both Matt Bolduc and Josh Jess had great opportunities to put the Minutemen ahead, but Farrell punched them aside.

Keys’ late goal was the final blow that UMass needed to put the Colonials away and cling to its playoff hopes.

“This was a game that we had to win,” Koch said. “[George Washington] was in third place I think going into this game and our guys came from a goal behind and did it again. I’m real pleased with the fact that we kept our heads up and kept battling.”

Aside from the late goal, the Minutemen’s defense was the real story as they held the Colonials to only four shots the entire game.

“They really played lights out,” goalkeeper Nick Ruiz said. “They all did great. [Matt] Pease, when Jay Marchand came back, Cody Sitton did well, especially when Matt Keys got back. A lot of it was just fighting for the ball further up so we didn’t have to fight for it as much in the back.”

Fordham outlasts UM

The two-game weekend for UMass got off to a rocky start as it fell to Fordham on the road Friday night 1-0.

After both sides played to a scoreless first half, the Rams (4-8-1, 1-2-1 A-10) notched the only goal of the game off a set piece in the 53rd minute. After earning a free kick just outside of the UMass box, Fordham’s Andrew Hickey took the free kick and beat Ruiz low to the left side of the net.

“They made it hard for us to play against them,” Koch said. “They got a set piece and that was the way the game was going to go. One of us was going to score on a set piece…no one had really special chances more so than the other teams and it was going to come down to a set piece and they put theirs in and we didn’t.”

UMass couldn’t respond, as it was held to only eight shots the entire game and then were faced with an even bigger challenge late in the game.

With just under 20 minutes to play, Minuteman Nigel Negm received a red card for a vicious tackle, forcing UMass to play a man down for the remainder of the game.

The road loss dropped the Minutemen to 0-8 away from Rudd Field this season.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.

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