UMass set for rematch with Fordham in A-10 tournament

By Jason Kates

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

This past Saturday, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team defeated Fordham 1-0 to secure a spot in this year’s Atlantic 10 conference tournament.

On Thursday, the Minutemen will have the chance to knock off the Rams once again, but this time with the loser’s season coming to an end.

After a four-way tie resulted in UMass (5-12-1, 4-3-1 A-10) earning the fifth seed to return to the postseason after missing out last year, and set up a first-round rematch with Fordham (6-7-4, 4-3-1 A-10), which received the fourth seed.

For coach Fran O’Leary, preparation for this game has not been different from any other time, but he noted that the excitement from the players is clearly visible.

“Outside of the travel, it’s been a typical week,” he said. “We kept the same schedule for training, we had a final fresh day at George Mason, which was just a typical day before the game session.”

In the Minutemen’s victory over the Rams on the final day of the season, it took an extra six minutes and 33 seconds to determine a winner, with freshman Casey Hamill scoring the goal that secured a postseason berth.

This time around, O’Leary acknowledged that Fordham will be out to get revenge, and knows his team will have to match the Rams in all aspects of the game.

“Any time you get a win it builds some confidence, but I think we know we’re going to have our hands full,” he said. “We know they’re going to come out stronger and more determined, and we have to be able to not just match their added intensity, but best their added intensity.”

Despite a slow start to the season in which UMass lost its first six games of the year, confidence surrounding the Minutemen has been high, and for good reason.

Following a 2-0 loss to Saint Joseph’s on Oct. 3 to open conference play, UMass went on a run in which it went unbeaten in the next four games and finished with its most wins since the 2012-13 season.

In his first year at the helm of the Minutemen, O’Leary praised his squad for the remarkable turnaround they’ve produced and getting back into the conference tournament.

“It’s been nice, huge credit to our players,” he said. “They come in every day and just wanted to get better every day. They didn’t fracture, they kept going and tied themselves like Division I athletes on and off the field. They deserve all the credit.”

When UMass takes the field Thursday afternoon, it will be tasked with limiting the offensive chances Fordham is able to create, and will have to keep tabs on German brothers Janos and Jannik Loebe. The Loebe’s have combined for 26 points, with Janos leading the way with five goals and five assists while Jannik has four goals and three helpers.

O’Leary is aware of the difficulties the Rams will present, but believes his team will be up for the challenge.

“We have to bring the same tempo, energy and intensity going against Fordham from this past Saturday,” he said. “We also need a little bit of quality in the attacking third, our final pass, and our final shot. Most of these games are really tight and sometimes come down to a goal, so a little bit of quality along the way could really help our chances.”

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., and will be held at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Virginia.

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