Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Column: UMass men’s soccer still A-10’s best

By David Brinch

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Marsha Gelin/Collegian

Last season, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team advanced to its first postseason since 2004, playing its way into the Atlantic 10 tournament before losing to Fordham in the opening round.

At the helm for the Minutewomen was Angela Napoli, a former standout goalkeeper and an assistant coach who paid her dues for four seasons under Jim Rudy, her former coach was arguably one of the best coaches in UMass history.

Rudy retired in 2009 after 21 seasons as the head coach for the Minutewomen.

This season, Napoli was looking to bring the Maroon and White back to the postseason in her second season consecutive season at the helm.

The university went in another direction this offseason, hiring Northeastern coach Ed Matz in January, while Napoli became an assistant coach at Michigan.

Matz’s pedigree is impressive: he was named the 2009 Colonial Athletic Association’s Coach of the Year, leading the Huskies to the conference championship and the school’s first ever regular season title. The year before, Matz led the team to victory in the CAA championship as the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Matz coached both men’s and women’s teams while at NU, coaching the women for 11 seasons while spending nine with the men’s team. While at the school, he compiled an overall record of 182-165-41.

Named the director of the soccer program in 1999, Matz took both teams from the basement of the America East and turned it into a legitimate program.

While the Minutewomen are hardly in the cellar of the A-10, there is no question that Matz is a successful coach that has the ability to bring teams to the next level, especially UMass, a roster that features nine freshmen and just three seniors.

Matz has won everywhere he has gone, both on and off the field. For six-straight seasons (2004-09), Matz’s teams earned All-Academic honors.

The Minutewomen lost their first game of the season to Washington, 3-0 on Aug. 27. But with Matz taking over a young UMass squad, look for more wins and another A-10 tournament birth in 2010.

UM still A-10’s best

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team might have dropped seven games last season, but its only real loss coming into the 2010 season is that of senior Mark DeSantis.

DeSantis scored four goals and was second in points behind senior midfielder Ben Arikian, who had 10.

UMass returns 10 of 11 starters and almost its entire team from a year ago, including eight freshmen.

That being said, with the same roster, UMass coach Sam Koch and the Maroon and White are looking for different results.

The team finished with a 7-7-3 overall record and was below .500 in conference standings, holding them out of the A-10 tournament.

All of this means that UMass will have the ability to work with a young team centered on four seniors who have had a lot of experience in the Maroon and White.

Arikian, named to the Herman Trophy Watch, has nine goals and 17 assists in 63 career games. Koch will rely on him heavily in order for the Minutemen to get back to where they were two seasons ago, when Arikian was a sophomore playing on a team that made it all the way to the NCAA Championship game.

The Minutemen were picked to finish in sixth place in the A-10 preseason poll, but only the top four teams make it to the A-10 tournament. Losing seasons don’t sit well with Koch, so he won’t settle for anything less than a spot in the A-10 tournament.

And once Koch can get his team that far, his endless coaching knowledge is going to make UMass a tactical nightmare to coach against.

Only one of those four teams will get out of the tournament 2-0 and continue its season against the best of the NCAA.

That team will be Koch’s Minutemen.

David Brinch is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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