Freshmen duo shines in UMass soccer’s win over Fordham

By Nicholas Casale

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Success in the sports world is calculated by the number in the wins column opposed. However, the formula used to calculate the future success of any team requires a far more sophisticated, yet inexact science.

By looking strictly at the Massachusetts men’s soccer team’s record (2-12-1) it’s easy to overlook how those individual components are gelling within the larger context of the team.

In Sunday’s game against Fordham, the synergy of the young team was apparent as two freshmen – goalkeeper Taylor Culp and defender Matthew Mooney – stepped up and proved to be instrumental in the win.

Since arriving at UMass, Mooney has stepped into the starting lineup and played predominantly at left fullback. While his duties are mainly defensive, he also gives the Minutemen an option on the wing from overlapping runs and intelligent movement when UMass is in possession.

Against the Rams on Sunday, he found himself near goal in the 20th minute when ball bounced outside the box. He settled it and fired a shot off the post for his first collegiate goal, and put the Minutemen up 2-0.

“It was a good feeling and it was definitely a confidence booster for me,” Mooney said. “To be honest, the goal came as a surprise, but I just found myself in a good position and I was able to finish.”

Mooney is no stranger to scoring goals – he scored 27 in his senior season in high school at East Longmeadow, Massachusetts – and said bringing another dimension to the attack is vital to the team’s success.

“I want to bring some energy to the offense,” he said. “And when I get opportunities I am going to do my best to try and score for my team.”

On the other end of the field, Culp started his third game of the season, and made seven saves en route to a shutout. Culp was particularly impressive late in the game, when Fordham pressed high and attacked with every number it had in a desperate attempt to get back in the game. But UMass held up, and Culp heaped praise on his teammates, pointing out the overall defensive effort is what got them the win.

“Honestly it was a team effort. Everyone stepped up and defended well and when (senior defender and captain) Matt Keys went out with red card and (starting center back) Matt Pease got injured, we could have easily gone down. For every save that I made our defense made a few blocks, so I really couldn’t have done it without them,” Culp said.

Interim head coach Devin O’Neill praised Culp for his performance after the game.

“I thought he had an outstanding game. He came up big for us and his play was instrumental in the win,” O’Neill said.

Despite the win being just the second of the year for UMass, the future is bright thanks to young talent. Culp and Mooney agreed the win gave the team a much needed confidence boost after going winless in their previous eight games. With a two-game road trip to North Carolina this weekend, UMass will look to build on that confidence and try to scrap together a few points as the season draws to a close.

Nicholas Casale can be reached at [email protected]