UMass men’s soccer celebrates Senior Day Wednesday

By Amin Touri

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Wednesday’s regular season finale will be a bittersweet occasion for the longest-tenured members of the Massachusetts men’s soccer team, as Rudd Field will host Senior Day ceremonies prior to kickoff.

Before UMass (12-2-3, 6-0-1 Atlantic 10) faces Fordham (10-4-2, 4-2-1 A-10) with a chance to clinch a conference regular season championship, Alex DeSantis, Matthew Mooney, Connor O’Dwyer, Bardia Asefnia, Henry Steinkamp and John Black will be honored before their final regular season game in Amherst.

“I think it’ll be a great occasion,” coach Fran O’Leary said. “But one of the things our guys have managed to do is maintain emotional stability over the course of the season, and I think they’ll do the same again. There will be a time at the end of the season at our banquet where we’ll really recognize the seniors, I feel if you ask them they’ll be hyper-focused on getting the win this week.”

Mooney has seen the most minutes of any graduating senior, with 72 appearances —69 in the starting lineup — for UMass. Despite the fanfare, he agrees with O’Leary, in that Wednesday is about three more points, especially with a playoff home game already guaranteed for the weekend.

“It’s like another game for me,” Mooney said. “Thankfully it’s not my last game on Rudd, so that’s a big plus, and knowing that we’re coming back on Sunday and playing there again is a nice weight off our shoulders. So tomorrow doesn’t put too much pressure on us—but it’s still an important game for us.”

Wednesday will be game number 70 in a maroon shirt for DeSantis—the most prolific offensive player of the bunch—who has posted 11 goals and 12 assists in 69 games over the last four years for the Minutemen.

“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” DeSantis said. “But I think after the game it will. I’ve been thinking a little that this is my last regular season game ever, but it hasn’t really hit me yet; I think it will after [Wednesday].”

O’Dwyer, Steinkamp and Asefnia are the other three usual starters that will close out their regular season careers on Wednesday.

The Senior Day theatrics are somewhat drowned out by the extra importance of Wednesday’s match, as UMass can clinch the A-10 regular season title with a win, something the Minutemen haven’t done since 2008.

DeSantis always had confidence in his team, but this much success was far from the expectation.

“No, [we didn’t expect this] at all,” DeSantis said. “My personal goals coming into this year was for the team to have a winning record, which we haven’t had in like 10 years or something, and to be top four in the conference so we can have a home game. I had no idea it would turn out the way it has so far.”

DeSantis’ first goal is already in the books; the Minutemen sealed their first winning season since 2008 weeks ago, and the top-four place was guaranteed with the weekend win over George Mason.

The only thing left is to match that 2008 team’s defining accomplishment, as the last UMass side to be crowned A-10 champions.

Senior Day festivities will take place just before Wednesday’s 2 p.m. kickoff.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter at @Amin_Touri.