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May 8, 2017

UMass men’s soccer earns third straight shutout for the first time since 2011

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team accomplished something defensively that has not been done since October of 2011.

UMass (4-6-2, 1-0-1 Atlantic 10) held St. Bonaventure scoreless en route to a 1-0 victory, witch marks the first time in five years – almost exactly to the day – the Minutemen have put together three consecutive shut outs. This is also the fourth shut out in the past six games for the Minutemen, as they have gone 4-1-1 during the stretch.

The strong performance by the defensive back line and senior goalkeeper Jorge Becerra was necessary for victory against the Bonnies (2-9-2, 1-2-1 A-10), who were coming off a 3-2 win over Davidson in their last outing.

SBU came in with the reputation for hitting long shots from outside the box, which is exactly what it threw at UMass, as Becerra was forced to make seven saves, the majority of which came from outside the box.

“They’re a terrific long-range team,” Minutemen head coach Fran O’Leary said. “Sometimes your keeper has an easy shutout, but today he had to make six or seven huge saves so he had a huge role in it today.”

“Usually you just have to stay ready,” Becerra said about the preparation for a team favoring long-range shots. “We told our guys to step up on them once they had the ball and they’re dangerous once they get close to the goal.”

While Becerra had to put in quite a bit of work to earn his fourth shutout of the season, as usual he gave all the credit to his back line, and more specifically the leader of that group.

“[Josh Jess] does well every single game,” Becerra said. “What he does, the crowd doesn’t always see, and it doesn’t always show outside the pitch. But all the runs he makes, the steps he makes the command, he kills it every game.”

Jess and the back line had one of its best showings of the season holding the Bonnies to just 10 shots the entire game, only seven of which were on goal.

SBU only had one corner kick all afternoon, which is by far the lowest total against the Minutemen this season.

In the previous six games, UMass has only allowed a combined five goals, and O’Leary credits the development of the team following a difficult early schedule.

“I think it hardens you or it breaks you,” O’Leary said. “In this case I think it hardened us, and I think it’s a credit to our lads that it didn’t break them and I think we’re better for it.”

Becerra agreed that the defense along with the rest of the team has become “harder” over the course of the season and is now hitting its stride.

“At the beginning of the season we were a little shaky giving up a lot more goals than we would have liked,” Becerra said. “Now we’re harder, we’re not a soft team in the back and we defend our set pieces well, and who knows when they’re going to score on us again.”

Nicholas Souza can be reached at njsouza@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @nicksouza27.

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