Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s soccer enters final stretch of regular season looking to lock down playoff spot

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

With two games left in the 2015 regular season, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team will look to secure a spot in the upcoming Atlantic 10 conference tournament, starting with a game Saturday at George Washington.

The Minutemen (4-11-1, 3-2-1 A-10) are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place with 10 points, and will look to get back into the postseason after missing out last year.

After having its unbeaten streak halted at four in a 4-1 loss to Dayton last Saturday, UMass looks to get back on track with a victory and secure a spot in the conference tournament, with this weekend’s matchup against the Colonials (8-7, 4-2 A-10) presenting an opportunity to do so.

“I think everyone’s looking forward to rebounding and starting another winning run,” Minutemen coach Fran O’Leary said. “I think we want to go to George Washington and get a result to ensure a place in the playoffs.”

In order to do so, UMass will have to conquer the demons that have haunted them on the road all season, with the Minutemen standing at 1-8 away from Rudd Field.

O’Leary said he knows George Washington, which is currently second in the conference with 12 points, will present a difficult challenge for his side,

“I think they’re a very good team,” he said. “We’ve got to match them physically, we’ve got to be smart and outthink them and we have to make good decisions when we’re in possession.”

With a roster consisting of 19 underclassmen and a postseason berth on the line, the magnitude of UMass’ situation can often impact the younger players on the team.

For O’Leary, his message is simple: at the end of the day, it’s still just a game of soccer.

“They’ve been playing for all their lives, and we’re looking for guys that want to play in big games,” he said. “We’ve told them that there’s gonna be more big games down the road, so I want them to go enjoy these games because it’s still soccer, and I want them to get out and be on the front foot and be energized.”

He added: “I think if you’re consumed by fear it impacts your energy levels and can have a negative effect on your performance. I want us to go out with a smile on our face and give it a good go.”

Heading into the final stretch, UMass holds a one-point lead over eighth-place Virginia Commonwealth and a four-point advantage over Davidson and George Mason. The Rams’ last game will come against conference leader Dayton, while the Wildcats and Patriots each have two games remaining.

Even if the Minutemen come away without a point against the Colonials, they will still have one more shot to earn a spot in the postseason with a home game on Nov. 7 against Fordham.

Despite this leeway, O’Leary said he’s not looking toward the future and knows the dangers that can come with that.

“All we’re really thinking about is the next game. If we take care of the next game, then we’ll start looking at Fordham,” he said. “I think if you start looking too far ahead, results will come back and bite you. We just have a hyper focus on putting on a good performance and getting a result against GW.

“We control our own destiny.”

Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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

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