The Massachusetts men’s soccer team entered Saturday’s matchup with Duquesne on a hot streak, unbeaten in its past five matches.
The Minutemen would extend that streak, defeating the Dukes 5-0 at Rudd Field.
The five goals scored was the most UMass (8-2-2, 2-0 Atlantic 10) has put past an opponent since 2013, when they defeated Sienna 5-2. It is also only the second time in the last 14 years the Minutemen have scored five goals in a match.
“When we can score, and we keep getting clean sheets, nobody can stop us,” senior Brandon Merklin said after the win. “Especially at home at Rudd.”
The win continues UMass’ strong play on its home grass, making it 7-0-1 at Rudd Field.
Duquesne (3-8-1, 1-2-0 A-10) was in trouble early after starting goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey was forced to exit the game in the seventh minute after a collision in front of the net.
It didn’t take long for the Minutemen to put pressure on backup goalkeeper Scott Rissler. Rissler finished the game having allowed five goals while making just four saves.
Freshman Davis Smith extended his scoring streak, having scored in each of the past four games.
Smith was able to put two goals past the Dukes, the first coming in the 16th minute of action. Senior Alex DeSantis floated a corner kick to the far post where the 6’6” Smith was able to sky over the defense to head the ball into the net.
Smith’s second goal came in the 59th minute off a beautiful feed from fellow freshman Mike Rita, who was able to beat Rissler for a ball just outside the box. Rita then found Smith in front of the net, who finished for his sixth goal of the season.
“It started with the pass from the back,” Smith said. “I held it for a little bit. [Henry Steinkamp] made a run down the wing, we played it to him. I just kept my run going, Rita did a great job finding the ball from Stein. Just kept it going, found it in the back post and finished it.”
UMass also benefited from a goal in the final minute of the first half. The Minutemen drew a foul inside the Duquesne box, leading to a penalty kick.
Midfielder Matthew Mooney was selected to take the kick, and he fired a shot to the left side of the net, but Rissler guessed right and made the save. The rebound came out to a UMass player who shot one back in that was once again saved.
The goalmouth scramble continued, as the save resulted in a rebound, where midfielder Christian Labeck was able to fly into the box and boot the ball into the net to put the Minutemen up 2-0.
“[It feels] very good,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said after his team moved to 2-0 in conference play. “Points are hard to come by. I thought we played well today against a good Duquesne team. It was important for us to be sharp right from the beginning. It was a good performance from us today.”
UMass also received goals from midfielder Connor O’Dwyer and forward Samuel Asamoah. O’Dwyer’s goal came in the 48th minute from a long throw-in from Casey Hamill.
Asamoah scored in the 88th minute after dribbling through defenders to the left before smashing the ball back across the goalkeeper into the right-side netting.
After a five-goal shutout victory, the Minutemen have every reason to be confident as Atlantic 10 play rolls on, as both their offense and defense are clicking.
“We’re always tough to beat because the defense doesn’t let in many goals,” Smith said. “It’s our job to score. We’re a great team, hopefully we can keep it going.”
O’Leary is pleased with where his team is at, but knows things can change quickly during conference play.
“We’re confident right now,” O’Leary said. “We’re scoring goals and not conceiving many right now. But that can turn. We’ve got to stay on guard, dust ourselves off, put this one to history and get ready for Saint Joe’s in the middle of the week.”
UMass will travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday to take on Saint Joseph’s, before returning to Rudd Field to host La Salle on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.