UMass men’s soccer squaring off against Penn State in second round of NCAA Tournament

First tournament appearance for UMass since 2017

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Mehroz Kapadia / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Collegian Staff

On April 19, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team received the all-important news that it was awarded an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

The Minutemen (7-1-3, 3-1-2 Atlantic 10) will head down to Greensboro, North Carolina to face off against Penn State in the second round of the tournament. It is their first appearance in the tournament since 2017 and the fifth in program history. The Nittany Lions (8-1-2, 6-1-1 Big-Ten) are coming off of a conference tournament in which they were knocked out in the championship game to No. 3/4 Indiana by penalties.

“We are very excited,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “I think we have had a real hunger to make this tournament. We took on a 24-hour bus trip, round trip to go to Virginia Tech to position ourselves into the tournament. I think now that we are here we want to give a good account of ourselves.”

UMass certainly understands the challenge that is up at stake. It is going up against a formidable Penn State side that plays in one of the toughest conferences in men’s soccer, and one that has been dominant on defense. Over a stretch of time through this season, the Nittany Lions led a three-game spell of allowing no goals and a win each game. The goalkeeper matchup will definitely be one to watch for between UMass’ own Marvyn Dorchin and Penn State’s Kris Shakes. Shakes was a part of those three consecutive shutout performances earlier in the season. Dorchin has been a brick wall in net this year and has come up multiple times with big-time saves for the Minutemen.

The person who can break through the Nittany Lion’s defense on Sunday is Filippo Begliardi Ghidini. The graduate transfer has acclimated himself nicely into the squad this year and is coming off of a two-goal outing against Virginia Tech in the regular season finale. Begliardi Ghidini will be a key part of UMass advancing into the next round. He has started in all 11 games the Minutemen have played in and he has seven goals and two assists to boast.

“I think the key is putting the ball in the box [for him],” O’Leary said. “He will go find [the ball]. He is a very talented player. I think the key for us is to get the ball, to get enough possession to get him a service in the box. It’s not so much finding him in the box, it’s putting the ball in the areas and he will go find the ball.”

Penn State has conceded just 11 goals all season and has a strong attack to coincide with their back line. Up front for the Nittany Lions is Daniel Bloyou who has seven goals and two assists on the season. Tied with five goals on the season are Peter Mangione and Pierre Reedy who also have a combined six assists on the year. The front attack for Penn State is one that will take advantages of mistakes and prance on missed opportunities for the opposing side.

“They are just a very well-organized team,” O’Leary said. “It’s a well-coached, well-structured team. They don’t give up many goals. The challenge for us is to break them down. They are a big team and an athletic team. We will have to be on guard on set pieces also.”

UMass takes on Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday with kickoff set for 1 p.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Frederick Hanna can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @FrederickHIII.