Mark Morris’ hat trick leads UMass men’s soccer to Wednesday victory

By Henry Brechter

Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian
Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian

With a cloudless sky, a game-time temperature of 68 degrees and a fired-up group of Massachusetts supporters Wednesday, it was certainly a pleasant day for a game at Rudd Field.

Just ask UMass senior forward Mark Morris.

The veteran scored all three goals in UMass’ 3-2 win over conference rival Rhode Island, including a game-winning rebound goal off his own penalty kick in the 89th minute.

While the decisive play wasn’t how UMass drew it up, as Morris’ initial attempt was saved, it was good enough to give the Minutemen their first Atlantic 10 victory of the season.

“I knew I was ready to step up for it,” Morris said. “The keeper made a nice initial save, but luckily the ball bounced right back to me and I was able to slide it home.”

After a back-and-forth game that saw 29 shots and the same number of fouls, the Minutemen were presented with one last opportunity to snatch the victory. Freshman Samuel Asamoah chased down a long pass and was fouled on his way to the net, setting up the penalty shot that ended what was an intensely fought battle between the two teams.

In his first-career hat trick, and the first one recorded by a UMass player since 2002, Morris accounted for seven of the team’s 15 shots, six of which were on goal. His accuracy and patience proved pivotal, as he finally drove home the first of his three scores in the 55th minute off a cross from Ty Goncalves to tie the game at one apiece.

Twelve minutes later, after a series of controversial officiating calls, injuries and near misses, it was again Goncalves who set up Morris, after he chased down a stray ball just before the edge of the right flank.

Following a great hustle play to gain control, Goncalves laced another beautiful pass toward the net, where Morris was waiting for it, sending the ball over the leaping URI goalie and into the back of the net.

A short time later, in the 71st minute, the disappointment seemed that it may continue for the Minutemen, when Rams midfielder Dominik Ritcher buried a chance from 20 yards out to knot the game up once again.

But Morris once again scored to level the game.

For Morris, his leadership and energy carried his squad to victory Wednesday, showing the patience and persistence needed to earn the victory.

“I’m extremely happy we got the win, regardless of who scores,” Morris said when asked about his three-goal performance. “We showed resiliency, going down once and then having them tie it up. It was a very hard-fought win and puts us right back into contention for the tournament.”

With a game coming up Saturday at home against conference-favorite Saint Louis in what will be UMass’ toughest test yet, Morris is confident in his team’s ability to be competitive.

“Today definitely gives us a big lift going into a huge game Saturday against Saint Louis,” Morris said. “If we perform like this, we can compete with any team in the conference.”

Henry Brechter can be reached at [email protected]