Hanna: UMass heading into the right direction as it heads on a three-game road trip

Minutemen started off their road trip with win over UMass Lowell

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

After losing two out of its three previous games, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team seems to have found its stride after a crucial win against fellow in state foe UMass Lowell.

For the last couple weeks UMass (5-2-1, 0-1-0 Atlantic 10) has been trying to find its identity especially after narrowly losing to Vermont and No. 24 Saint Louis. A win at home over Dartmouth in between both of those earlier contests kept the Minutemen afloat rather than sinking into a losing streak.

The victory over the Riverhawks (1-6-1, 0-1-0 America East) will pay dividends down the road for UMass. It was a win that saw freshman Andrew Ortiz fill a big void needed when the rest of the team was lacking in offensive production. The freshman confidently played the ball off a set piece with a lovely one touch flick over the River Hawk’s keeper into the back of the net. UMass has relied heavily on the production of its front three in Alec Hughes, Filippo Begliardi Ghidini and Yosuke Hanya. There is no shame in hiding from the fact that those three are critical players to UMass moving forward, but there certainly is space for others to step up when the offense needs them.

Ortiz answered when his name was called upon. The freshman hasn’t been a regular in terms of starting minutes this season and only played in 58 minutes against UMass Lowell, but his equalizing goal against the River Hawks in the first half should give him confidence moving forward.

After a back-and-forth contest with the Billikens on September 18th, the Minutemen found themselves losers of two of the past three games on the schedule, searching for answers in how to find its rhythm heading into A-10 conference play. Certainly, a rude awakening into the grind of A-10 play was an opening 3-2 loss at home to SLU, but it was one that the Minutemen could take lessons from. Saint Louis dominated its set pieces and were dangerous from corners giving UMass’ defense reason to worry.

UMass took note of the Billikens aggressive play style and capitalized on its defensive mistakes in that game and turned them into offensive opportunities against UMass Lowell. A set piece in the first half saw the Minutemen level with the River Hawks at the half and come the second half with things knotted up at one apiece, UMass kept creating offensive chances through corners and counter attacks.

In the second period of overtime the Minutemen broke the deadlock at one thanks to Graham Brenner’s golden header goal to give them a 2-1win. Brenner, a senior and captain of the squad, stepped up for UMass when it needed him the most. In a game in which the likes of Hanya, Begliardi Ghidini and Hughes weren’t producing for UMass, Brenner and Ortiz proved they can play an important role moving forward.

UMass now heads onto the road for its second game of a four-game road trip. The Minutemen can settle into a mold now as the season progresses and can really make a name for themselves. Coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance last spring, expectations are still high for this squad. A backbone of Marvyn Dorchin in goal for the Minutemen along with the combination of their front three attacking players and a strong defense can see this team challenge for the top of the A-10.

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