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UMass men’s soccer falls to Fordham, still takes home A-10 regular season title

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

When the No. 25 Massachusetts men’s soccer team walked off Rudd Field on Wednesday, it did so in defeat for the first time all season. A 3-2 loss to Fordham marked the first home loss for the Minutemen in the season, their first loss period in 11 games and their first home conference loss since 2014.

Worst of all for UMass (12-3-3, 6-1-1 Atlantic 10), it failed to secure an A-10 regular season title, opening the door for Virginia Commonwealth to snatch the honor on the final day of play.

Hours after the Minutemen were upset on their home field, the Rams were in turn upset at St. Bonaventure, and the title returns to Amherst for the first time since 2008.

The Rams (11-4-2, 5-2-1 A10) capitalized on a pair of second-half set pieces to hand UMass its first home loss.

“I thought it was a very good game,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said, “two very good teams playing. I congratulate Fordham on the win, congratulate our guys on a tremendous run of games, that’s put us in a very good position going into the postseason.”

After Alex DeSantis opened the scoring in the ninth minute for the Minutemen. Fordham responded with three consecutive tallies to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

Janos Loebe, the Rams’ reigning conference Offensive Player of the Year, found some space at the edge of the area and fired one low past Bardia Asefnia to tie things at 1-1 in the 14th minute, a score which held until the half.

The Minutemen came out of the break firing, but Fordham got on the board next, as Joergen Oland took advantage of Asefnia’s hesitation to come for the ball, heading home a corner kick to make it 2-1 in the 55th minute.

Corner defense failed UMass again 15 minutes later, as Christopher Bazzini leaped over everyone and sent a blazing header whizzing past Asefnia to add to the Ram lead.

“I think we didn’t pay attention to the little things,” junior Konrad Gorich said, “especially on set pieces, and if you don’t do that in college soccer you concede a goal and that’s what happened today. There was probably a little bit of a misunderstanding or miscommunication [on the second goal], but that happens. Everybody makes mistakes, sometimes it goes like that. We’ll keep going.”

Jack Fulton’s free kick in the 73rd brought the Minutemen within one, but that’s as close as they would get.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Gorich said, “but we played well as a team in the second half. We had some unlucky goals—congrats to Fordham, their win wasn’t lucky, they deserved it today. We’ll keep going, Sunday is a big game for us, so it’s all good.”

The loss certainly wasn’t what UMass was looking for, but it worked out in the end. Now the Minutemen shift their focus to bouncing back from Wednesday’s loss, as they play at home in the opening round of the A10 tournament on Sunday.

Senior Matthew Mooney, for one, has confidence in his team’s ability to bounce back.

“We’ve done it before,” Mooney said. “We’ve always come back from our losses this season with a big game the next game, and this time it’s an ever bigger game, so I have a lot of confidence that we’ll come back and give it 100 percent next game.”

O’Leary, meanwhile, is only concerned with finding ways to improve from Wednesday’s performance.

“Well we’ve only lost twice prior to this [loss] this season, we just dust ourselves off, we’ll pick it apart,” O’Leary said. “Typically this is a very good team, but they get a lot of goals off set pieces, and we usually defend our box very well. We didn’t today. So we’ll look at it, and we’ll come into Sunday now and we’ll need to defend our box better.”

UMass will host Davidson on Sunday, at a time to be determined.

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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