UMass men’s soccer sends its two seniors off in winning fashion.

By Nicholas Casale

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)
(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

With winter looming on Saturday afternoon, coats, mittens and hats were required if you wanted to maintain a healthy body temperature, but the cold weather didn’t stop the Massachusetts men’s soccer team’s bench from soaking its seniors with water bottles.

The hydro-technics were part of a special occasion for the Minutemen as they honored seniors Matt Keys and Josh Schwartz, both before and after the last game of the season – a 3-0 win over St. Bonaventure.

In the 80th minute of the match, the Minutemen (3-13-1) held a comfortable 3-0 lead, and interim head coach Devin O’Neill signaled to Sery Lenoir to check in at midfield. When the ball went out of bounds Lenoir walked on the field to replace Schwartz one last time. He was met with water bottles, warm embraces from teammates and coaches and a loud standing ovation.

Schwartz also recorded an assist on the day, bringing his season tally to five. His five goals also were the most on UMass this season.

“It was good to leave it all on the field. It was very emotional and I’m so happy we won, especially after the season we’ve had,” Schwartz said. “I’m excited to see where these guys go in the future, because I think they are going to just keep improving.”

O’Neill went to his bench again just one minute later, this time to replace senior captain Keys, who met the team in identical fashion, with Carlo deMarco. Keys reminded everyone what made him so dominant for the Minutemen over the years, as he broke up play at the back, carried the ball forward and won just about every challenge that came his way.

Keys did it all. The defender started all but one game in his four-year career and appeared in all 71 career games at UMass. Not only did Keys man the defense for four years, he also moved up to forward late in games when his team needed a late offensive push.

“It was a good way to end the season and I felt like the team gave one hell of an effort,” Keys said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and down and I’m proud of the way we ended.”

He also gave one final word of advice to his team before joining friends and family in celebration, saying, “In the future it’s going to be tough at times, not everyone is going to be on your side, but if you give it 100 percent then it’s always going be worth it.”

O’Neill praised both players after the win and recognized their “leave it all on the field mentality”.

“By the big smiles on their faces you could tell it meant a lot for them,” he said. “It didn’t go the way we planned, but they have really represented the program so well and they are going to be sorely missed. Unfortunately we couldn’t give them more, but were happy that we could give them this to end it on.”

It was a roller coaster season for UMass, and the two seniors have left strong legacies behind. But in the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Indeed, while the UMass family is going to miss watching Keys and Schwartz play at Rudd Field, there is plenty more in store for both young men, and their leadership both on-and-off the field has set them up for a successful life off the pitch.

Nicholas Casale can be reached at [email protected].