Goalkeeper Chris Piekos making difference for Minutemen

By Herb Scribner

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Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

  With less than 90 seconds to go in double-overtime, goalkeeper Chris Piekos stood on his line and watched as the Massachusetts men’s soccer team’s defense scrambled to get its way back towards the goal.

New Hampshire sent a long ball up the field to the attacking Jon Harris, who flew to the ball. Piekos stormed out of the box and slid to attempt to clear the ball from the oncoming Harris.

Harris beat Piekos to the ball and blasted the shot into the back of the net to add another point to the loss column for the Minutemen and keep the Wildcats’ (4-0-2) undefeated streak alive.

“It’s disappointing with a minute, 27 seconds left,” Piekos said of Harris’ goal. “I had to come out as best I could, he got to it first and it was very unlucky.”

Even though UMass coach Sam Koch wasn’t thrilled to see his team lose with such little time remaining, he did find a silver-lining in Piekos.

“He made a couple of great saves to keep us in the game, and unfortunately we didn’t get the job done to stop them on that last one,” Koch said.

 Piekos proved to be an important part of the game during the second half, as the Minutemen (1-3-3) endured a flurry of offensive attacks from UNH. Piekos recorded four of his six saves in the final 45 minutes of regulation, compared to the two saves he made in extra time.

The four saves in the second half came over a 10-minute period. The first happened just off the halftime whistle, with Piekos scooping up Josh Bronner’s header to hold off the attack.

Piekos held on tightly to a pair of Robert Palumbo shots in the 54th and 56th minutes. The first of the freshman’s shots came from the far right side of the box, when he blasted the ball towards the goal to try and stun the UMass defense. Luckily for the Maroon and White, Piekos was all over it.

“I saw him breakthrough; he was on my left side, so I knew he was going to take a touch and try and it take on me,” Piekos said. “I closed down as fast as I could and I was able to stop that shot.”

Piekos knew fully well that the defense was collapsing in the second half, as he had to come up big to keep the game level.

“[In the] second half, we got a little lackadaisical,” Piekos said. “We were able to get out of some tough situations and we had great opportunities.”

In overtime, Piekos earned a pair of saves to keep the Minutemen in the game until the final 90 seconds. In the first period of extra time, a break by UNH led to a shot opportunity for Dylan George, which was easily picked by Piekos.

In the 108th minute, Piekos fell victim to an attack by Jordan Thomas. With Andrew Henshaw making his way back towards goal, leaving just Piekos to defend, Thomas took his shot. Piekos cleared the ball with the back of his heel.

“I knew he was going to poke it to my right so I got my leg out when I saw it,” Piekos said. “I got set when I saw him go down for the shot. I was able to get a foot on it, so I got lucky there.”

Magic wouldn’t strike again, however, as less than a minute later, Harris scored the game-winning ball.

“You can’t ask Piekos to stop all of them,” Koch said.

With the loss, Piekos falls to 0-2-3 on the season with 26 saves from the 80 shots taken against him. The senior goalkeeper has allowed six goals in his five matches played.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]