Mark Morris provides instant impact in return to UMass lineup

By Jason Kates

Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian
(Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian)

On Sept. 25 in a game versus Vermont, Massachusetts men’s soccer player Mark Morris made his long-awaited return for the Minutemen after missing five games with an injury.

Three games later, the senior showed what UMass (2-10-1, 1-1-1 Atlantic 10) had been missing offensively, securing the first Minuteman hat trick for the program since 2002 in a 3-2 conference win over rival Rhode Island on Oct. 7.

That same week, Morris played 105 out of 110 possible minutes in UMass’ 0-0 double-overtime draw against Saint Louis.

In his first year as the coach of the Minutemen, Fran O’Leary knew what type of player he would be getting in the Tucson, Arizona native.

“We had (Morris) in the spring so we knew he had the potential to score goals,” O’Leary said. “We were unfortunate that he picked up a bad injury early in the season, but we’re delighted to have him back and feel like he’s going to be a big part in the run-in as we endeavor to get a place in the conference tournament.”

Last year, Morris started in all 17 games he was featured in, scoring three goals and registering 26 shots in 1,186 minutes of action. His sophomore year in Amherst, he recorded a career-high four goals in the 19 games he played in, 10 of which he started.

While Morris remained on the sidelines, UMass went 1-4, scoring just four goals against the 12 it allowed to opponents.

O’Leary acknowledged that his skills, as well as age, made Morris a difficult player to replace.

“It was a big loss,” he said. “In terms of our returning players he was our leading scorer, and was also experienced being a senior, so it was a huge loss four us.

“He’s come back, he’s shook off the rust, and he’s looking really dangerous right now.”

In the victory over the Rams (5-5-2, 0-1-1 A-10), O’Leary said confidence was clearly visible in Morris’ play, which is key for a striker looking to get back in the goal column.

“I think all strikers rely on goals to build up confidence,” O’Leary said. “(Morris) has been playing really well, but there’s nothing like goals for a striker, it’s a delight for him.

He added, “You can see the confidence really come into his game, and he followed it up with a strong game against Saint Louis.”

As one of only five seniors in the squad, Morris has been asked to act as a mentor for the underclassmen on the team, specifically those on play the same position.

O’Leary recognized the help his senior has given to freshmen Kevin Boino and Samuel Asamoah, as well as forming a partnership with fellow fourth-year Lenoir Sery.

“All of the seniors have been around the block, so they all know what’s it like on the road, particularly this week” O’Leary said. “We’re playing Saint Bonaventure, and we’ve got to be really ready for this. We’ve got to be able to show we can go on the road and pick up some points.”

For his efforts against Rhode Island and the Billikens, Morris was named Co-Player of the Week in the Atlantic 10. Morris and the rest of the Minutemen will look to gain another positive result when they head to Olena, New York for a conference contest against the Bonnies.

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