A look back at top sports teams in UMass history

The most successful teams in UMass sporting history 

A look back at top sports teams in UMass history

By James DiLuca, Collegian Correspondent

With the lack of sports taking place this fall due to COVID-19, I figured that I would take a look back at the best teams that UMass has had over the years.

Here are five teams, ranked in no particular order, that I think are the best in UMass’ history. I tried to rank these teams based off of record, overall talent and tournament success.

No. 5 

 Men’s Basketball: 1970-71 Season

The 1970-71 season saw the Minutemen have great success on the basketball court as they finished with a record of 23-4 and a 10-0 conference record. They also finished as Yankee Conference champions. The team was coached by Jack Leaman who would go on to finish with the most wins in program history with 217. This team – on average – outscored opponents by 14.6 points a game and held opponents to just 65.1 points per game, which was good for ninth-best in the country.

This team was led by Julius “Dr. J” Erving and John Betancourt. Betancourt averaged 12.6 points and 4.2 assists per game for the season. Erving put up absurd numbers, averaging 26.7 points, 19.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the course of the season. On Feb. 22, 1971, Erving put up a monster performance against Syracuse scoring 36 points and hauling in 32 rebounds. This 30-30 game is probably one of Dr. J’s best performances as a Minuteman. Erving, after his collegiate career, would go on to become an ABA and NBA legend.

No. 4

Football: 1963 Season

This season was arguably the most dominant season UMass football has ever had as they finished with a record of 8-0-1 and were Yankee Conference champions. UMass, that season, had a defense that struck fear into the hearts of opponents as they only surrendered one touchdown the whole year. UMass shut out opponents six times that season and outscored opponents 265-12. As good as the defense was, the offense also was productive, averaging nearly 30 points a game. One of the team’s best performances came against the University of Rhode Island in the form of a 57-0 victory.

In the lone game UMass did not win, it tied against division rival Harvard with a score of 0-0. This is a very bizarre score, as scoreless ties are seemingly a rarity in football. UMass was coached by Vic Fusia who would go on to win five Yankee Conference titles. The team was led by All-Yankee Conference members: quarterback Jerry Whelchel, defensive ends Bob Meers and Milt Morin and offensive linemen Paul Graham and Bob Tedoldi. Milt Morin and linebacker Phil Vandersea both went on to play in the NFL.

No. 3

Women’s Soccer: 1987 Season

During the 1987 season UMass women’s soccer demolished its competition as it outscored opponents 74-8, en route to a 20-2 record. The second game of the season saw UMass dominate against Vermont, winning 8-0. One of the team’s two losses came in the national championship game against North Carolina who won 1-0. The team was coached by Ken Banda who left the team after the 1987 season with the best winning percentage (.774) of any coach in program history.

The Minutewomen featured three-time first team All-American Debbie Belkin and Catherine Spence, a second team All-American in 1986. Belkin and Spence were tied for the team lead in goals, each scoring 11. Beth Roundtree and April Kater each scored 10 goals that season. Goalie Carla DeSantis also played extremely well, posting 14 shutouts on the year. DeSantis would go on to finish her UMass career as the program’s all-time leader in shutouts with 37.5.

No. 2

Men’s Hockey: 2018-19 Season

The 2018-19 season saw the UMass men’s hockey team reach new heights as they made the national championship for the first time in program history. The team finished with an impressive 31-10 record. UMass came up just short in the championship game as they lost to Minnesota Duluth 3-0. On average the Minutemen outscored opponents by 1.7 goals a game and had 9.1 more shots per game. That season coach Greg Carvel won the Spencer Penrose Award which goes to the top coach in Division I hockey.

One of the best moments in UMass hockey history occurred that season when Marc Del Gaizo scored the game winning goal in overtime of the national semifinal to give the Minutemen a 4-3 victory over Denver and a ticket to the national championship. 2020 Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar led the team in assists and was tied for second on the team in goals scored. Mitchell Chaffee led the team with 18 goals. Goalies Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg both played outstanding over the course of the season. Murray finished with a record of 20-5 and a save percentage of .919. Lindberg went 11-4 and had a save percentage of .934.

No. 1

Men’s Basketball: 1995-1996 Season

The 1995-96 campaign saw the Minutemen finish with an astounding record of 35-2 and clinch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. On average UMass held their opponents to just 62.4 points per game, which ranked 10th best in the country. The AP Poll ranked UMass as the No. 1 team in the nation for a good portion of the season. UMass made it all the way to the Final Four, losing to the eventual national champions, Kentucky, by a score of 81-74. The team was coached by Basketball Hall of Famer John Calipari who after this season went on to the NBA to coach the New Jersey Nets. The team’s tournament record was vacated by the NCAA as an investigation revealed that star player Marcus Camby received money from two agents while still in school.

Nonetheless, Camby on the hardwood was a standout as he averaged 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.9 blocks per game. Camby took home numerous awards that season, winning the AP Player of the Year Award, Wooden Award, Rupp Trophy, Naismith Award and Sporting News Player of the Year. The team also received contributions from guard Carmelo Travieso who averaged 12.6 points and shot 40.3 percent from 3-point range. The team also featured forwards Donta Bright and Dana Dingle. Bright averaged 14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, while Dingle averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds on the season.

Honorable mentions: 1998 Football, 1969 Men’s Baseball, 1969-70 Men’s Basketball, 1985 Women’s Soccer

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DiLucaJames.