Minutemen hang on for bounce-back win against St. Joseph’s

Hughes scores twice to bring his season total to six

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Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Richard Rodgers, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team lost for the first time this season on Wednesday night as it fell in overtime to Fordham. Saturday evening’s match against Saint Joseph’s was a different story as the Minutemen scored two goals early and hung on.

The Minutemen (6-1-1, 2-1-1 Atlantic-10) got off to a hot start with the front line generating some quality chances. It took 22 minutes for junior midfielder Ben Shepherd to find freshman forward Alec Hughes with a beautiful long pass resulting in a header that found the back of the net. Then just before the 32nd minute, junior midfielder Nathaniel Cardoza found Hughes who scored yet another goal. Hughes now leads the team with six goals this season as he continues to impress alongside his veteran counterparts.

“Well he’s a goal scorer,” UMass head coach Fran O’Leary said. “He’s also playing with two very experienced players in Fillipo [Begliardi Ghidini] and Yosuke [Hanya]. So he’s transitioned very well, but I think he’d be the first to tell you that playing alongside two experienced guys of the caliber of Filippo and Yosuke has helped him a lot.”

The Hawks (1-5, 0-2 Atlantic-10) started to show signs of life towards the end of the first half as they got off a few solid shots after the tough start. With 25 seconds remaining in the half, sophomore defender Alex Hartmann scored a header on a corner-kick assist from freshman midfielder Nemo Philipp. Saint Joseph’s seemingly went into halftime feeling re-energized.

“Particularly on the road, if you’re going to get a win, they’re tight games,” O’Leary said. “So we came out very well. We scored two terrific goals. Alex scored two terrific goals. But it was a back-and-forth game and they nicked one in before halftime. They’re a very dangerous team on set pieces and they got one just before halftime which gave them a lift. But our guys stayed resolute and came out well in the second half.”

After controlling the pace of the match in the first half, UMass had to hang on for dear life in the majority of the second half. The Minutemen gave up 11 shots and only generated two total shots throughout the half. Luckily for the Minutemen, they could rely on senior goalkeeper Marvyn Dorchin who added another outstanding performance to what has been a phenomenal UMass career.

“He’s been terrific for us now for two seasons,” O’Leary said. “He makes big plays. He makes big saves. He was called on late in the game to make a really big save and we’re just used to Marvyn stepping up in big moments. He did it again tonight to help us get the three points.”

With two regular season matches left on the schedule the Minutemen sit at the top of the North division of the Atlantic 10 with a one-game lead over La Salle. They view this victory as another test where they had to prove just how much grit they have.

“Obviously the response was excellent,” O’Leary said.  It’s very hard to win on the road and to get a result against a good Saint Joe’s team here is really pleasing…I couldn’t be more pleased with the character and the courage shown by the team tonight.”

UMass will get the chances to avenge its only loss this season as they get a rematch with Fordham in the Bronx this Saturday. The start time for that match is still to be decided.

Richard Rodgers can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RichardDRodgers.