Penalty kick lifts UMass soccer over Boston University

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff / Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team continued its strong play at Rudd Field on Saturday, besting the Boston Terriers 1-0.

UMass (3-1-1) once again was led by a strong defensive performance in which it held BU (0-5-0) to four shots on goal. Goalkeeper Bardia Asefnia was excellent in net, making multiple strong saves.

Asefnia’s best save came with just over five minutes remaining in the first half. Terrier T.J. Butzke got off a clean shot that looked destined to find the bottom right corner of the net when Asefnia sprawled to his right to make the first save, then scooped the ball off the line to keep things scoreless.

It was a veteran, instinctive guess that allowed Asefnia to be in position to make the save.

“I know the ball came across the box and I just saw a kid’s leg go back,” Asefnia said. “I didn’t know if that was our player or a Boston player. It was just a point blank reaction save. I just got down quick, got the save and it was right there. The ball just ended up right next to my hand. It was all a surprise.”

Asefnia feels the team playing as one unit is the reason for their success on the defensive end.

“It’s all a team effort. Our defense, our midfielders, our forwards they all work well with each other. This is one of the best teams I’ve ever played with chemistry wise and friendship wise. It’s all a team effort.”

The lone goal of the game came on a penalty kick in the second half. The ball was put into the box where freshman Davis Smith and Boston goalkeeper William Bonnelyche raced to be the first to get a touch. Smith was able to win the battle and send the ball to senior Alex DeSantis who was racing into the penalty area, and DeSantis was brought down and a penalty was given.

DeSantis took the penalty kick, where he shot the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. Bonnelyche guessed right, dove to that exact spot where he made a tremendous save, but the ball ricocheted right back to DeSantis who was able to put the ball into the open net.

“I was kind of surprised he saved it,” DeSantis said. “I thought in my mind I was making it. He made a good save and I hit the rebound.”

“Alex is a very good player,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “He won the penalty himself. Davis started the whole thing off. Alex supported his effort and that’s what won us the penalty.”

The Minutemen nearly scored five minutes into the game when Davis Smith was able to put a header over Bonnelyche off a free kick, but the play was called disallowed for an offside call.

The win gives UMass its third of the young season, which is a major improvement from last year, when the Minutemen started 0-4-1 in their first five games. O’Leary is pleased with the way his team has begun the season, crediting their strong offseason as a reason for the fast start.

“We made a point of emphasis to have a fast start to the season,” O’Leary said. “Guys committed themselves over the summer. To lose one of your first five is a great credit to the work our guys have done.”

UMass will look to add another tally to the win column Tuesday night when they travel back to New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.