Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass opens 2022 season with 1-1 draw against Northeastern

Nick Zielonka scores the equalizer in the 72nd minute, his second career goal
Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team opened its season on the road with a 1-1 draw against Northeastern on Thursday afternoon.

The first half was scoreless in Brookline, with the Minutemen (0-0-1) posting a strong showing on both ends of the field. The Huskies (0-0-1) scored the first goal of the game in the 64th minute to take a 1-0 lead, but UMass quickly tied it up with a goal from junior midfielder Nick Zielonka.

“Very pleased with the performance, to come on the road against a team that won 11 games last season, outshoot them and come from behind to get the result was very pleasing,” head coach Fran O’Leary said.

The first half in Brookline was scoreless despite a solid offensive effort from UMass. The Minutemen controlled the ball for most of the first half, putting pressure on Northeastern’s back line. UMass attempted five shots on goal, putting four of them on goal and forcing four saves from the Huskie’s goalkeeper Colby Hegarty.

Two of the saves made by Hegarty were highlight reel saves. In the 17th minute, UMass captain Ryan Levay attempted a high arching shot from the top of the box that was saved by Hegarty. Then, in the 39th minute, freshman forward Sefunmi Taiwo delivered a pass to Mike Willis for a header that was also grabbed by the junior goalkeeper.

UMass started the second half with an aggressive approach offensively, after Alec Hughes attempted a shot that bounced off the left post. However, sophomore midfielder Shizu Yohena was on the rebound,  firing a shot towards the bottom left corner of the net that was saved by Hegarty.

It was Timothy Ennin who provided Northeastern with the initial lead, after Tobias Wangerud sent the ball to the top of the box, with Ennin taking the one touch shot into the left corner. UMass soon answered, with Nick Zielonka drilling a strike from inside the penalty area on an inbounds pass from Alec Hughes, tying the game at one apiece with 20 minutes remaining. Zielonka’s goal was the second of his career.

“Terrific goal, if we’re going to put a good season together we’re going to have to come from behind and take something away from games,” O’Leary said. “It was just a very bright piece of play by Alec Hughes, just a quick throw-in, and it was a quality finish by Nick [Zielonka].”

Offensively, UMass finished the game with a total of 12 shots, seven of which were on goal. Defensively, the backline headlined by graduate student Nathaniel Cardoza limited Northeastern to just three shots on goal.

“The two center backs Matt Fordham and Aidan [Kelly] were terrific and the fullbacks Brad Moccio and [Cardoza] shut down the wide areas,” O’Leary said. “It was a good day, a lot of young guys got their first taste of college soccer and acquitted themselves very well.”

Going into the home opener on Monday, the focus for the Minutemen will be on decision-making and making good reads for their teammates.

“We just want to work with the ball, just making better quality decisions, in terms of the quality of the pass and which is open dictated by the quality of the run,” O’Leary said. “Without the ball we’ll just want to continue to maintain that aggressiveness.”

UMass will face off against Sacred Heart in its home opener on Monday, with kickoff scheduled for 4 p.m.

Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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