UMass faced with difficult task of playing spoiler

By Daniel Malone

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

It’s a painful truth that athletes and coaches of all calibers and competition levels know all too well: eventually, the fat lady is going to step up to soundcheck her microphone.

Already on mathematical life support, that moment arrived for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team when a bullet shot off the foot of a Duquesne player zipped past goalkeeper Brian Frame in overtime Sunday, effectively ending any hopes the team held about controlling its own destiny.

Tournament aspirations aside, UMass still has something to play for when it heads to Ohio this weekend to take on Atlantic 10  rivals Dayton and Xavier.

But the team isn’t exactly keen on it.

“It’s tough to do,” Frame said after the team’s loss to Duquesne. “Obviously, we don’t want to use being a spoiler as motivation, but I think the guys, they had their heads up at the end of the game”

Frame’s sentiment is certainly understandable given the circumstances. While still technically alive for one of the eight seeds for the A-10 tournament, the Minutemen are more immediately faced with the unenviable challenge of getting up for a pair of matches 800 miles away against clearly superior opponents.

Doing so would be difficult even without the emotional roller coaster of a sudden death loss in front of family and friends on Senior Day.

UMass coach Sam Koch, who noted that the Duquesne matchup was nothing short of a playoff game in its own right for the team, appears grateful that his players still have two more opportunities to continue improving.

“We got knocked out,” he said. “Only difference is we get to play next this weekend, where (in) the real playoffs you don’t.”

Koch, who has suggested previously that hitting the road and getting away from daily Amherst routines helps his team focus on the task at hand, said he plans on playing every member of the travel squad in hopes of making good on the Minutemen’s mantra of “getting better every week.”

Though the stakes have been reduced, Frame says his goals won’t waver.

“For me, personally, it doesn’t (change),” he said. “Obviously we come out here and try to win every game and get a shutout from the goalkeeper position.

“I think we’re going to come out and play with a lot of pride for the school and the shirt that we wear.”

While UMass’ spoiler efforts in the upcoming weekend finale might not knock either of its opponents from postseason contention, Koch remains optimistic, saying “it would be a nice way to end the season.

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

That may be asking a bit much, but you can bet on the Minutemen giving their all to close out the season.

“Will we play a lot of people?” Koch asked rhetorically. “Yes. Will we try to win the games? Absolutely.”

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