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DeSantis penalty kick lifts UMass men’s soccer over Dayton

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team held onto first place in the conference Saturday, as they defeated Dayton 3-2. The win extends the Minutemen’s unbeaten streak to 10 games.

Tied up in the 83rd minute, freshmen Davis Smith drove toward the goal, where he cleanly beat sophomore David Lianes, forcing Lianes to foul him in order to prevent a one-on-one with Smith and the goalie. The foul resulted in a red card, and UMass was given a penalty kick.

UMass coach Fran O’Leary sent captain Alex DeSantis out to take the kick. The senior put the ball into the back of the net, which would prove to be the game winner.

“It takes a lot of courage to take a penalty, particularly on the road to potentially win the game,” O’Leary said. “Alex is a very experienced player. He wanted to take it and he finished it.”

It was a battle between two strong offenses, as the Minutemen (11-2-3, 5-0-1 Atlantic 10) and the Flyers (7-7-2, 4-2-0 A-10) entered the game tied with the most goals in the A-10.

It was the Dayton offense that got on the scoreboard first, with forward Rok Taneski converting a penalty kick in the eighth minute of action.

It took UMass just under 20 minutes to answer, as Smith scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 26th minute. Forward Jack Fulton was able to lob a pass into the 6-foot-6-inch Smith in the box, who was able to head the ball past the goalkeeper.

Forward Samuel Asamoah was able to give the Minutemen their first lead in the 51st minute. Asamoah was able to use his speed to beat a pair of Dayton defenders before putting a shot past a crowd in front of the net.

The Flyers wouldn’t give in, as Taneski scored his second of the game in the 64th minute. The forward was able to put it into the far post from 22 yards out.

With the game knotted at 2-2, DeSantis’ penalty kick in the 83rd sealed three points for UMass, as the Minutemen are unbeaten since Sept. 12.

“Absolutely delighted by the result,” O’Leary said. “Dayton is one of the top teams in the conference, if not the best team. And to come on the road and come from behind once again, that’s a credit to our guys.”

O’Leary was impressed with his team’s ability to not get down after the quick goal put them behind early.

“Six out of the last eight games, we’ve come from behind to either win or tie,” O’Leary said. “There’s a terrific resiliency and a terrific spirit among the lads.”

The Dayton offense was unable to score more than the two goals, though, and much of that can be credited to the UMass defense, which only allowed two shots on goal on 15 total shots taken by the Flyers.

“Guys are throwing their bodies in front of shots to block balls,” O’Leary said. “Bardia [Asefnia] made some fantastic saves. We managed to find a way to get a winning goal. It’s a pretty special group of guys, they’re enjoying their soccer and they’re finding ways to get results.”

The win puts the Minutemen at 16 points, which puts them one point ahead of Virginia Commonwealth and George Washington for first place in the conference, with a game in hand over GW, who have played an extra game.

“This is a very, very big win for us,” O’Leary said. “It’s ten games undefeated for us. They’re a good team with a lot of talented, experienced players. To show the resilience to hang in with them, particularly when they equalized in the second half, we were under pressure quite a lot.”

UMass will look to earn three more points next Saturday, as they travel to Virginia to take on George Mason.

 

Thomas Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@umass.edu and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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