Kevin Boino gaining confidence for UMass men’s soccer

By Ross Gienieczko

Kevin Boino dribbles past a BU player. Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian
Kevin Boino dribbles past a BU player. Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian

Freshman forward Kevin Boino is not a loud or boastful type.

If he was, the first-year striker for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team would’ve heard about his Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week award before his teammates alerted him of the fact Sunday.

“I didn’t even know it until my teammates told me yesterday in the locker room. It’s a pretty good feeling,” Boino said.

The Dalton native earned the weekly honor for the period of Oct. 12-18, a stretch that included the Minutemen’s 2-1 road win against St. Bonaventure Saturday. In the victory over the Bonnies, Boino had the breakout performance of his young collegiate career. The freshman scored both goals in the UMass victory, his second and third tallies of the year. His efforts helped the Minutemen remain unbeaten in A-10 play at 2-0-1 after UMass began the season with an ugly 1-9 record.

As the Minutemen started 2015 slow, so did Boino. He appeared in five games and started two of them, but was unable to find the back of the net until a home showdown against Hartford Sept. 16.

In the matchup against the Hawks, UMass trailed 1-0 after conceding a goal in the 21st minute. But the Minutemen stormed back, tying the game on a goal from Samuel Asamoah in the 38th minute and taking the lead for good when Boino struck in the 64th.

Boino’s goal secured milestones for himself and his team. It was the first goal of his collegiate career, and the 2-1 victory it clinched was the first of the season for UMass and first win under coach Fran O’Leary.

“He’s grown confidence all along,” O’Leary said of Boino. “He was a quiet lad coming in, but he’s got comfortable in his surroundings. You’re starting to see a fun personality develop and manifest itself in his play. He’s been terrific for us.”

Confidence is obviously a key factor for any soccer player, but it is especially important among strikers, according to O’Leary. And nothing is better for a striker’s confidence than finding the back of the net.

“Particularly for strikers, they thrive on goals. That’s how they’re defined. If they’re scoring goals, it gives them an enormous boost,” O’Leary said.

It’s no coincidence then that Boino says his confidence has increased throughout the season as he’s continued to accumulate goals for the Minutemen. It’s also how the freshman has managed to remain effective after going five games before scoring his first goal and six games before netting his next two.

“You’ve just got to know that eventually you’ll get your shot, and when you get your chances you have to finish them,” Boino said.

O’Leary added: “That’s the life of a striker. They score, they go games without scoring. If someone could guarantee a goal every game, they wouldn’t be playing for UMass. They’d be earning an awful lot of money somewhere else.”

A welcome return

Boino’s growth as a scorer has been part of a steady improvement for the Minutemen’s offense as a whole. After scoring just five goals in its first 11 games of the season, UMass has struck five more times in the last three games alone. O’Leary said it’s something the Minutemen have worked on every day, but the return of senior forward Mark Morris has played a big role in the offensive outburst as well.

Morris was the recipient of his own A-10 award after a hat trick against Rhode Island earned him co-Player of the Week honors for the week of Oct. 5 – Oct. 11. The senior missed time early in the season due to an injury, but his return has given UMass some much-needed firepower on the offensive end.

“We lost him for six or seven games, then we hurried him back and he was rusty,” O’Leary said. “Now, he’s just beginning to play at the level we know he can play.”

In the five games Morris has started since re-joining the team, the Minutemen have scored six goals. It’s not a remarkable pace, but it’s considerably better than UMass was doing before.

As Morris and Boino are starting to find the back of the net, O’Leary hopes their goal-scoring will become contagious within the team.

“Sometimes (goals) come in little bundles, sometimes (you) get one then go quiet. Hopefully, this will send us off on a little run,” O’Leary said.

With Morris getting healthy and Boino finding confidence in his first year of collegiate soccer, the Minutemen are poised to do just that.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.