UMass men’s soccer takes on Northeastern in season opener

Minutemen riding momentum from last season

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

Only a few months separate the Massachusetts men’s soccer team’s last campaign and the new season. A COVID-19-plagued season meant only 12 games were played last spring. Now 116 days later, UMass squares off against Northeastern on Thursday in a non-conference clash.

It was a hopeful and promising spring season of soccer though. The Minutemen reached the NCAA tournament after putting on a commanding display to close out their campaign, drawing with Virginia Tech and fortifying its resume for the postseason. UMass lost out to a dominant Penn State team in the first round of the tournament, but certainly the building blocks are in place to move on with some momentum into this season.

“Those two games were against big, prominent teams,” defensemen Graham Brenner said. “Just to get a good result against them, getting experience playing them was really important to show that we can compete against them. We aren’t just a small school. We are up there with them in terms of talent. Using that to move forward in the season will help to boost our confidence out there.”

The Minutemen have their core of attackers and forwards returning to the squad this season. Graduate players Marvyn Dorchin, Filippo Begliardi Ghidini and Yosuke Hanya all return to the squad after commanding spring seasons in which they filled up the stat sheet. Sophomore Alec Hughes made his mark on the pitch last year after providing seven goals and two assists while starting in all 12 games UMass played.

“We have a lot of returning players but in a way it’s a new team,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “All we are really interested in is Northeastern. We are expecting them and almost all of the teams we play to be improved so time will tell. The attitude and application so far has been first class, but the proof in the pudding will come in the game against Northeastern.”

Hanya is the focal point of the Minutemen squad and his return to the team for his graduate year will pay dividends for O’Leary’s squad. He provides a formidable presence in the front third for UMass and plays a crucial role in sparking scoring and creativity on the pitch. He contributed with seven assists last year and was the leading player in minutes out of everyone aside from Dorchin.

“[Hanya] is so important,” Brenner said. “His creativity, his ability to free up the game is awesome. Sometimes in the game he will hold back and be forced back by the other team, but he will release it [up the field] and he has this special ability every single game no matter what team it is to just give us an extra ability to open up the game. Especially on defense he gives us time to adjust and really open them up.”

Last time out the Minutemen dominated things from the start against the Huskies and finished out with a 2-0 win.

“Well I think we don’t know what to expect because they’ll be a new Northeastern team,” O’Leary said. “They’ll be a fairly experienced Northeastern team and I just think it is a new game. They are a very talented team. A very, very talented team. We always have our work cut out against them, but I think it’s important for us to come out and bring energy from the kickoff.”

UMass takes on Northeastern in Amherst with kickoff set for 1 p.m.

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