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

Solid performance of freshman class sparks optimism for Minutemen

Quinn Serafino, Logan Brown, and other freshman have exceeded expectations when their numbers are called
Mehroz Kapadia

With so few returners from last season and two of their best returning players sidelined by injury, the younger players on the Massachusetts men’s soccer team are showing an extraordinary amount of heart to stay competitive with an increasingly difficult set of opponents.

“It’s been crazy just going through a lot of different positions every game,” freshman Logan Brown said. “It’s been a lot more than I could ask for though, getting to play so much. A lot of freshmen don’t get that opportunity and here I am playing on the field, so you’ve just got to take every moment that you get.”

Brown is just one member of a growing group of freshmen – Benjamin Wiemann, Quinn Serafino, Harrison Tognela and Ryan Levay also included – who are seeing increased playing time for the Minutemen (4-5-0, 0-1-0 A-10), often out of position, thanks to the injuries that have plagued the team all season. Senior forward Yosuke Hanya, widely considered UMass’s most talented player, was lost in the preseason, while junior midfielder Eli Cronin hasn’t seen action since the Sept. 14 contest against Central Connecticut State.

“They’ve got good temperaments, good personalities, and good character,” coach Fran O’Leary said. “Logan’s a central defender, and as far as I can recall he’s played center forward, wide midfield, central midfield – the one position that he hasn’t played so far is central defender. Because we’ve had a couple of injuries, we’re asking guys – young guys – not only to come in and play, but to play out of position, and it’s just a credit to their temperament and their character.”

One of the most surprising features of UMass’s run with young and inexperienced players has been the continued cohesiveness on the defensive end. On the year, the Minutemen has only allowed seven goals in nine games. Although defensive production has slightly declined in the absence of Cronin’s leadership, they have continued to perform respectably, allowing six goals in four games and never allowing more than two in a game.

“These young guys have come in and done so well for us,” O’Leary said. “They’re not afraid. I think the key thing is personality. You can’t be afraid, you have to feel you belong. They displayed a brave personality to Dayton.”

O’Leary began to use the freshmen, albeit sparingly, in the first game of the season against Northeastern. Their continued and increased usage throughout the early games ultimately provided experience and preparation that has proven valuable now that their presence on the field is necessary. Meanwhile, the upperclassmen on the team, injured or playing, have taken the younger players under their wings, serving as mentors and providing them with much-needed confidence to take on their suddenly enlarged roles.

“I think the upperclassmen and the coaches have really helped a lot,” Serafino said. “James [McPherson] has been amazing up top with me, Jared [McCleary] and Yosuke have both helped a lot talking to me and helping me through things. In the back, [Ryan] Saul and Marvyn [Dorchin] have both been great anchors for us. Saul’s been talking to all the guys we have in the back, and Marvyn has been a wall out there.”

Although the spirit and hard work of the younger players has helped the Minutemen stay competitive in their games, it has not yet been quite enough to get over the hump created by injuries. UMass has dropped four games in a row, albeit close games, including three by only a single goal. Their increasingly difficult schedule only puts more pressure on the Minutemen, who have been able to create scoring opportunities but have severely struggled with finishing all season.

“I feel like we should have had a different result against BC and Dayton,” Serafino said. “We know we have the talent to play at this level in the coming weeks. Getting in the film room, seeing how we can improve, seeing how we can prepare for the other team, and getting ourselves better is the most we can do.”

The Minutemen will have a chance to prove whether they can turn the tide on Saturday against Saint Louis, their first game at Rudd Field following a two-week road trip.

Michael Townsend can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MichaelTowns777.

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