Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass’ tournament hopes all but over after dropping final two home matches

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Being forced to watch an opposing player being mobbed by euphoric teammates following a game-winning, sudden death overtime goal is a gut-wrenching experience for Massachusetts men’s soccer coach Sam Koch under any circumstances.
But having to do so on Senior Day with his team’s tournament chances all but extinguished struck an entirely different tone.

“I feel bad for all four of them,” Koch said of his team’s seniors following Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss to Atlantic 10 Conference rival, Duquesne. “Because, you want to go to the tournament. You want to play in the postseason.”

Playing on the familiar home turf of Rudd Field for the final time in 2012, the Minutemen (5-9-2, 2-5 A-10) entered Sunday’s match in desperate need of the three points awarded to teams in the standings for a victory.

A laser shot to the far post off the right foot of Dukes forward Joshua Patterson — the A-10’s leading goal scorer with 11 — in the game’s 98th minute, however, ensured that UMass would go home empty-handed and heavy-hearted.

“The kid’s back was turned, and he made really good contact with the ball, which is pretty difficult on a turn with one hit,” goalkeeper Brian Frame said of the play.

“It’s a really good goal on his part, so you have to tip your hat to him.”

Frame, who, along with fellow seniors Dominic Skrajewski, Hellah Sidibe and Kellen Rauch, was honored during a pregame ceremony, didn’t hold back in recounting the memories and emotions dredged up following the difficult loss.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I came out thinking about the first camp I came to, before I was a student, when I wanted to come here. I had a long talk with (Dominic) on the walk down from Boyden (Gymnasium). It’s a lot of emotion, a lot of reminiscing, a lot of thinking back.

“It’s tough, it was a great effort today, so I’m just going to remember that part of it.”

For much of the match, it felt as if the Minutemen’s seniors’ swan song might be played on forever. With neither team able to capitalize on its chances near the goal, the game morphed into a defensive struggle of increasing intensity.

Outshot 21-10 and constantly harassed by the Dukes’ (6-10-1, 3-3-1 A-10) relentless attack, UMass found itself embroiled in a valiant, but ultimately futile strategy of bend-but-don’t break defense.

It was only a matter of time before things broke down and Patterson could make good on his chance.

“The game moved definitely in different patterns,” Frame said. “They had a good amount of sustained pressure. I think we dealt with it the best we could and they took their chance and we didn’t, so that’s how the game goes.”

Matt Keys, a crucial component of the Minutemen defense and a player who will be called on to help step up in place of the team’s graduating seniors next season, wasn’t surprised by Duquesne’s physical style of play.

“We knew that coming in, so we were just going to keep battling,” he said. “It was definitely a very physical game.”

Koch, who considered Sunday’s loss in the face of elimination something of a playoff game for his squad, expressed understandable disappointment in his postgame comments.

But he’s not without reason for hope.

“We want to win these last two games because they’re two of the best teams in the conference,” Koch said of the Minutemen’s upcoming road tilts with Dayton and Xavier to close out the season. “Dayton and Xavier are both tournament teams.

“If we can beat those two teams, then we can say, ‘Hey, we beat two teams that are going to the tournament, maybe the fact that we did beat them will knock one of them out.’”

While playing the role of spoiler will require a bittersweet change in mindset for UMass, the team enters next weekend’s finale determined to go out on top.

“I think we’re going to come out and play for the pride on the shirt and for the guys on the field,” Frame said. “I’m not changing anything. I’m coming out, trying to get two more wins and end the season on the right note.”

Second half breakdowns doom Minutemen

UMass found itself faced with Sunday’s undesirable do-or-die scenario, in part, because of the opportunity it let slip away in a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of St. Bonaventure on Friday.

With their playoff hopes in dire straits, the Minutemen hung tough with the Bonnies (5-12, 3-4 A-10) for over two-thirds of the match. But an impressive 48-second scoring flurry from midfielder Brad Vanino beginning at the 66:47 mark stretched a manageable 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 blowout.

Koch noted that his team started to lose its focus as the game wore on, creating critical chances that St. Bonaventure was able to capitalize on.

“We made some bad mistakes defensively, and they punished us, end of story,” he said. “I give them a tremendous amount of credit. They created more chances, and their chances went in, ours didn’t.”

The Bonnies, who managed to get off only eight shots, began taking advantage of their limited opportunities early in the match when midfielder James Reed beat Frame one-on-one in the penalty box in the fifth minute for his third goal of the year.

A line drive offering just under the crossbar from forward Brett Canepa off a long pass from Skrajewski just under eight minutes later knotted the score up once more for UMass, but a Daniel Iannacito header in the 38th minute reclaimed a St. Bonaventure lead it would not relinquish.

“It happens sometimes, unfortunately,” Frame said. “We didn’t get any luck, and it goes that way sometimes.”

The Minutemen will need all the luck they can get if they’re to have any chance of a earning tournament seed at this point. In addition to pulling off back-to-back upsets on the road against talented Dayton and Xavier squads this upcoming weekend, UMass requires favorable results in a number of third-party matches.

The reality for Koch and his team will likely not be so pleasant, but finishing the season with their heads held high might prove just as important for a young squad constantly looking to improve.

“We want to get better, he said. “We want to do things that we haven’t been able to do really well, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on.

“We’ve got 14 freshmen on this team, so we’re certainly looking toward the future, but we want to end on a good note for the seniors.”

Daniel Malone can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.

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