Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Next man up” mentality for UMass men’s soccer in 1-0 loss to UMass Lowell

Minutemen played six freshmen in the game
Nina Walat

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team lost 1-0 to UMass Lowell on Saturday, but the loss was less significant in the grand scheme of the program’s development.

The Minutemen (4-3-0) have been riddled with injuries all season and because of it have been forced to rely on their more inexperienced players to perform. UMass may have lost, but the result doesn’t show the full picture. The game was very much a back-and-forth contest and the Minutemen held their own against a Lowell team that is known for its stout defense.

The Minutemen were playing without defensive-minded midfielder Eli Cronin and in his place stepped in freshman Logan Brown. Brown, originally a central defender, has seen minutes at both striker and defender this season.

Brown wasn’t the only freshman that saw significant game time. Freshmen Ben Wiemann, Ryan Levay, Harrison Tognela, Quinn Serafino and Evan Fournier all played minutes for UMass.

“Nobody likes injuries, but one of the benefits of an injury crisis is people get opportunities,” coach Fran O’Leary said. “If they perform well, it adds to the depth. We had times today where there were five or six freshmen on the field against a very good Lowell team and they acquitted themselves superbly. This spell of injuries has required us to use our young guys and I think they’ve handled themselves well.”

UMass midfielder Yosuke Hanya has been out since the preseason with an injury, a huge blow to the team’s attacking core that was already facing tons of questions entering the season. Graduate transfer Eric Eberl saw time in the position that Hanya vacated, but the Lowell appearance was his first in two games due to an injury of his own.

“We lost our top player minutes into the preseason,” O’Leary said. “We made a point of not looking at injuries as an excuse, so guys are just asked to come in and play.”

The season doesn’t stop because of injuries and in came Christian Labeck to start on the right wing. Freshman Harrison Tognela appeared in just his third game, all three appearances occurring during the stretch that Eberl has been hurt.

Facing such a physically imposing team, the Minutemen slotted Brown in the middle and when rotations needed to be made, Wiemann came on for him. Brown and Wiemann are both natural central defenders and physically imposing, which was important against a big UMass Lowell defense.

“Our really only comparison to [the River Hawks] would be Ryan Saul,” said midfielder Tyler Mann, who transferred from UMass Lowell. “They have about three of him back there. It’s definitely tough. I told them [Serafino, Brown, Levay and James McPherson] ‘Hey, if you press them, every player is the same, if you get their head down, you have a chance.’ You just got to keep it away from smashing it in the air or else they’ll smash you from behind.”

Brown is 6’0 and is a ball of muscle. Wiemann is 6’5 and his presence was felt in the air. Evan Fournier, a natural midfielder who came in at one point, is 6’4. The freshmen weren’t exactly giving up much size against the River Hawks.

UMass also had a lot of substitutions up top as at one point ran a pairing of Ryan Levay and Logan Brown. Neither of those two are natural strikers.

“In the midfield, at different stages today, we had two central defenders [Brown and Wiemann],” O’Leary said. “Up front, at one stage today, was a freshman center defender, which Logan is, and a freshman midfielder, which Ryan Levay is.”

Even with all of the injuries, the Minutemen only allowed a goal on the counterattack when goalkeeper Marvyn Dorchin was unable to trap the ball on a shot and Mario Mora Perez finished it. Defender Graham Brenner had a chance to even the score with six minutes left, but the header hit off of the crossbar and fell out of play.

O’Leary was proud of the way his team played against a tough Lowell side.

“I feel so bad for our guys,” O’Leary said. “They compete against a very experienced group of players and matched them and bested them at different phases of the game… I thought our guys acquitted themselves very well today.”

The Minutemen will play their final non-conference game on Tuesday when they travel to face Boston College at the Newton Campus Lacrosse & Soccer Field at 4 p.m.

Javier Melo can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JMeloSports.

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