UMass men’s soccer washed away by Saint Joseph’s in A-10 opener

By Jason Kates

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

As the Massachusetts men’s soccer team was preparing for its Atlantic 10 opener against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday, its biggest challenge quickly became adapting to the brutal weather conditions at Rudd Field.

From the first kick of the game to the final whistle, nonstop rain forced both teams to adjust their play and discover a way to find the back of the net. Unfortunately for UMass, it was the Hawks who broke the deadlock with a goal in the 86th minute to hand the Minutemen their third consecutive loss.

Rain mixed with a grass field never makes for a pleasant game, with players slipping and sliding all over the place. When asked about whether or not the weather affected his team’s play, senior defender Matt Keys said it’s no excuse given that both teams had to deal with it.

“I mean, both teams are playing in it, and you can’t really prepare for the rain,” he said. “I think it definitely took a factor on the game as a whole. We thought going into it maybe it would help us a little bit, but they played just as well as us.”

UMass interim coach Devin O’Neill said that the rain definitely made an impact on his team’s play over the weekend.

“I think it probably made it difficult, you know, the ball gets greasy and skips away from you, so it’s tough,” O’Neill said. “We just couldn’t pass well enough, couldn’t create many chances and continue to struggle from an attacking standpoint.”

Regarding his team’s approach to dealing with the weather conditions, O’Neill said that he told his team they would have to be quick to adapt throughout the game and had no desire to change up the game plan.

“We knew it might be a little more difficult, but we wanted to try and play the way we play and see if we could be good enough, but we weren’t,” he said.

This was not the first time this season that the Minutemen (1-8, 0-1 Atlantic 10) had to compete in sloppy weather conditions. On Sept. 13, they traveled to Boston University where they lost 2-0, giving up both goals in a first half that was played in a torrential downpour.

Focus shifts to A-10 play

Saturday’s game against Saint Joseph’s kicked off UMass’ campaign to make it back into the A-10 tournament. Despite falling to 0-1 in conference play, O’Neill said that wants to make sure his squad takes the season one day at a time. He said he still believes that positive results will come.

“We’re just keeping a single-game focus and trying to accumulate points if we can,” O’Neill said. “Today was a good opportunity for three (points), but unfortunately we missed that.”

O’Neill added that the team has done a good job of not “getting down on themselves,” despite the amount of losses so far this season.

In his final season with the Minutemen, Keys said that he hopes his team can turn the year around and get to the conference tournament one last time.

“I think everyone’s a little more focused,” Keys said. “Not that we don’t take the non-conference games seriously, but we know that this is our chance to get to the postseason. Every game counts, every point counts.

“We dropped three (points) today, so now we have to make those up in the next couple of games.”

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @Jason_Kates.