After pushing No. 24 Indiana to the limit on Sunday, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team strolls into Rudd Field riding a wave of confidence as it prepares to battle Vermont.
“We’ve got to just regroup and get ready for Wednesday’s game against Vermont,” UMass coach Sam Koch said following the game against the nationally-ranked Hoosiers. “Vermont’s going to be a very good opponent on Wednesday, they’re going to come in fired up to play us.”
When the Minutemen (1-2-2) fell to the Hoosiers (3-3) this past weekend, they were victim to forward Will Bruin’s offensive pressure late in the game to seal the win for IU. UMass will have to prepare itself for another high-scorer in Nick O’Neill, who leads the Catamounts (4-1-2) with four goals and two assists.
O’Neill isn’t the only one getting it done for Vermont as seven different players have combined to score the Catamounts’ 11 goals on the season. The offensive pressure will certainly be there for the Minutemen to undertake.
One instrumental defender for UMass is David Key. Key has been a defensive lock so far this season, aside from a slip-up which led to Central Florida’s lone goal last Friday. In the match against IU, Key was all over the ball and provided a strong effort on the backline.
UMass’ counterattack offense may be in trouble when it faces off against the Catamounts as the neighbors to the north have allowed five goals on the year, four of which have come in the opening 45 minutes. The Minutemen have struggled in the opening half as of late, going scoreless in the first half of their past three games.
Nevertheless, UMass has scored six goals so far in 2010, compared to the three it scored in the first five matches of last year’s campaign. In the first five games of 2008 and 2007, the Minutemen scored six and four goals, respectively.
Five players have found the back of the net for UMass, including Hellah Sidibe, Stuart Amick, Bryant Craft (two), Brett Canepa and Tyler Cleverdon. Sidibe, Canepa and Cleverdon all scored their first goals for UMass this past weekend.
While UMass bounces between Chris Piekos and Shane Curran-Hays for the starting position between the posts, Vermont goalkeeper Xan Rousselle has started the majority of the games this season. Rousselle, a graduate student who played previously at Quinnipiac, boasts a 0.52 goals-against average with 26 saves so far this season.
The Catamounts enter Rudd Field on a four-game unbeaten run since losing their opening contest of the 2010 campaign. Vermont first ousted Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2-1, in a double-overtime affair before besting Presbyterian (2-1) and Cornell (4-0) to claim the Nike Fall Classic. The Catamounts most recent contests include a pair of draws to Colgate and Lafayette.
“As pleased as I am that our expectations now are a little bit higher, we’ve got to step it up,” Koch said. “We’ve got to be ready to shut them down better than the way we shut [Indiana] down.”
Historically, UMass holds a slight edge over Vermont with a series record of 8-19-5. Last season, the match between both sides produced a 1-1 draw. While former Minuteman Mark DeSantis scored for the Maroon and White, then-freshman D.J. Elder produced for the Catamounts and will return Wednesday for the match.
In its first win of the season, UMass relied on its own set of freshmen to achieve the victory in Cleverdon and Brett Canepa. Both Cleverdon and Canepa saw action on Sunday against the seven-time national champion Hoosiers and will likely see playing time in Wednesday’s contest.
Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]