UMass men’s soccer stays alive despite loss to Saint Louis

By Ross Gienieczko

Collegian File Photo

The Massachusetts men’s soccer looked like a team primed for an upset.

Playing one of its most competitive games of the season, the team had multiple chances to take the lead in the second half against Atlantic 10 leader Saint Louis on Sunday at Rudd Field.

But Jake Alvaro’s 73rd minute shot was denied by the crossbar. Five minutes later, Billikens defender Jon Roeckle found the back of the net, essentially finalizing Saint Louis’ 2-1 victory.

“These guys played a great game today,” UMass coach Sam Koch said after Sunday’s game. “But we made a couple mistakes and Saint Louis is a good team. Unfortunately, they put their two chances away, and we only had one chance that we finished.”

Despite the loss, UMass (4-13-1, 3-5 A-10) still qualified for the A-10 Tournament this weekend in Dayton, Ohio. The Minutemen enter the tournament as the No. 8 seed and will have a rematch with number top-seeded Saint Louis (12-4-2, 6-0-2 A-10) on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m.

UMass started slow in Sunday’s contest, and for the first 30 minutes of the game, the Billikens chipped away at the Minutemen defense. Saint Louis was eventually rewarded with a direct kick opportunity just outside the goalkeeper’s box, as Roeckle tucked the free kick neatly in the top right corner of the goal for his first of two goals in the game.

The goal served as a wake-up call for UMass, which reversed the pace of play and spent the rest of the half on the attack. In the 39th minute, the Minutemen tied the game after Josh Schwartz finished a nice sequence of passes with a header past Saint Louis goalkeeper Nick Shackelford. Matt Keys was credited with the assist on the play.

“That’s the way you have to play,” Koch said. “It’s a 90 minute game and you have to play hard all 90 minutes. They could have just given up and they didn’t.”

UMass came out firing in the second half, with Schwartz getting two shots on net early in addition to a dangerous corner produced in the 61st minute. But Shackelford held strong in net and the Billikens responded with a flurry of chances after a corner of their own in the 64th minute.

Minutemen goalie Nick Ruiz was there for several key stops and the game stayed tied at 1-1.

UMass was close, but could not finish. After Alvaro hit the crossbar in the 73rd minute and Roeckle scored in the 78th, Saint Louis used methodical passing to bleed the clock and keep the ball in the Minutemen zone. UMass never had a quality chance to even the game.

Seniors Brett Canepa, Connor DeVivo and Nigel Negm were all honored in a pregame ceremony for Senior Day, as it was the last home game of the season for the Minutemen.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected]