Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Column: UMass prepares for tough A-10 opponents

By David Brinch

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Editor’s note: With Atlantic 10 play beginning this week, Sports Editor David Brinch and Dayton Sports Edtior Jacob Rosen look at the start of the conference schedule from their school’s perspective.

Collegiate soccer is very particular in that if two teams are tied at the end of regulation, the game goes into double-overtime to determine a victor.

If double overtime cannot produce a winner, each team receives a point and the game ends in a draw.

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team has seen five of its regular season games end in a tie, including three of its last four contests.

While the Minutemen (1-3-5) have yet to begin conference play until later this week, UMass has only one victory, a 2-1 win over Central Florida coming back on Sept. 17.

In conference standings, the Minutemen are in a four-way tie for seventh place in the A-10 with eight points with La Salle, Saint Louis and Temple.

The team has had a difficult start to its season, with two of its three losses coming at the hands of nationally-ranked teams.

The Minutemen fell to then-No. 10 Harvard on Sept. 6 by a score of 3-2 and then lost to then-No.24 Indiana 10 days later, 2-1.

In between these two games, UMass got its first win of the season against the Knights and tied its second opponent, Fairfield.

While UMass coach Sam Koch and the rest of the Minutemen would rather see their record stand at 6-0-1, the team realizes how important conference play is, beginning with Xavier Friday, Oct. 8.

When UMass made the NCAA tournament and the College Cup in 2007, the Minutemen had four losses on their record before A-10 play began. The team then won eight conference games en route to their first-ever College Cup and were the only unseeded team to make the Final Four.

The team that made the College Cup is completely different from the 2009-10 Minutemen. It really isn’t fair to compare the two. However, if UMass can go on an A-10 tear like they did three years ago, the team could follow a familiar path.

In order for that to happen, the Minutemen will have to be successful against a number of A-10 opponents they face.

Xavier

It all begins with the Musketeers, who visit Rudd Field next Friday. The team holds a 2-2-3 record and is one spot ahead of the Minutemen with nine points. XU has two wins in its past three games and fell to UMass last season in the A-10 opener, 1-0. Andrew Henshaw scored the lone goal for the Minutemen, as he has one goal so far this year. If UMass can score early against an untested Musketeer team, it should give the Minutemen momentum heading into conference play.

Temple

UMass takes on the Owls in the second game of its three-game road slate on Oct. 22. Before that, the Minutemen play the Rams, a team they lost to 1-0 last season. A year ago, UMass fell to the Owls in double overtime at Rudd, 1-0. Temple holds a 2-5-2 record, while URI is 2-6-1 so far this season. After facing Temple, the Minutemen take on Saint Joseph’s, a team they defeated last season 2-0. This three-game road trip could make or break the Minutemen’s season. UMass hosts Dayton before hitting the road, a team that UMass lost to in double overtime last season. Two out of three wins on the road and/or one victory and one draw would set UMass up for their biggest A-10 opponent when they return to Rudd.

Fordham

The Rams are 5-4-0 and are tied with Charlotte for the top spot in the A-10 with 15 points so far this season. The Rams ended the Minutemen’s five-game unbeaten streak last season with a 1-0 victory over UMass. The Rams head to Amherst on Oct. 29 after taking on George Washington and Richmond on the road. The Rams have won two-straight games; an overtime 1-0 win over Marist and a 1-0 win over Manhattan.

Charlotte

UMass closes out its regular season on the road against the 49ers and Billikens on Nov. 5 and Nov. 7, respectively. The Minutemen did not face the 49ers or Billikens in 2009, but look to end their regular season with two wins on the road in hopes of earning an A-10 tournament birth. The 49ers are tied with the Rams for first place in the A-10 this season, while the Billikens are tied with the Minutemen with eight points.

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

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