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UMass men’s soccer picks up crucial conference victory

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team is peaking at the right time.

Nicole Evangelista/ Collegian

UMass defeated St. Bonaventure on Saturday, earning its first winning streak of the season after a 2-1 victory. The win improves the Minutemen to 4-3 over their last seven games and vaults the team into sixth place in the Atlantic 10 with nine points.

“They guys played well in a real tough environment,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “They came through and stayed focused and I couldn’t be more pleased with this group.”

The location of the game was moved to Bradford High School in Bradford, Pa. after poor field conditions forced the Bonnies (8-7-2, 2-3-1 A-10) to relocate. Unfamiliar turf and an extended bus ride between six and seven hours presented an unfamiliar challenge for the youthful Minutemen.

But UMass (4-11-1, 3-3 A-10) wasted no time initiating scoring, as leading scorer Josh Schwartz scored his fifth goal of the season off a feed from Peter Alvarenga in the 19th minute. Just 13 minutes later, Mark Morris corralled a bouncing ball in front of the net and beat St. Bonaventure goalkeeper Jeremy Figler to make it 2-0 Minutemen. Morris’ goal was the result of a corner kick from Connor DeVivo and was his fourth of the season.

“I’m happy for them,” Koch said. “It’s the kind of thing where you work hard on something and you try to keep improving it and you don’t see the results. It’s like studying for an exam for a long period of time and not getting a good grade.

“You need to get a sense that all the hard work is paying off and I think the wins are showing that all [the team’s] hard work is paying off and they’re getting results now.”

The win marked UMass’ first road win of the season, an important victory as it returns home to face both Dayton and Saint Louis in its final two games of the season. Dayton is just a single point behind the Minutemen.

“It’s a slow process, we’re just trying to get better each week,” Koch said. I think we have. We still got things we need to work on. We still made a couple mistakes in today’s game that we have to work on this coming week.”

The Bonnies cut the deficit in half with just three minutes left in the first half on an Emmett O’Connor goal from the top of the box, beating a sprawled out Nick Ruiz. Koch described O’Connor as the “best forward in the conference.” He leads the conference in goals with eight.

Neither team found much offense in the second half with both sides getting off six shots apiece. St. Bonaventure outshot UMass 12-10 and took 15 corner kicks to the Minutemen’s five. Nick Ruiz finished with five saves for UMass

The Minutemen control their own conference tournament fate with one more weekend remaining

“We don’t have to rely on anybody else, we do our job then we’re in the tournament,” Koch said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

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

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