Preview: UMass to host No. 25 Duquesne Saturday

Minutemen look for an upset win after back-to-back draws

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Collegian File Photo

By Jordan Meneo, Collegian Staff

After two consecutive draws, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team will look to take down nationally-ranked Duquesne on Saturday. For the Minutemen (5-0-3, 0-0-1 Atlantic 10), they are on a historic run with no losses through eight weeks for the first time in program history.

The Dukes (6-0-1, 1-0 A-10) are a bullet train that is full steam ahead. Duquesne is currently ranked No. 25 nationally and hold the best record in the A-10. Head coach Chase Brooks had his best season with the program last year making it to the A-10 championship game, where the team ultimately fell 2-1 to Saint Louis.

The Minutemen are back on track after missing the conference tournament in the 2021 season. Despite a lineup full of new faces to start the year, UMass has been an offensive powerhouse through eight weeks. In five of their eight games, the Minutemen scored three or more goals. They sit second for goals scored in the A-10 with 20, led by forward Alec Hughes. Hughes has scored five goals so far this season and has two assists to go along with them. The Connecticut native leads the conference in shots on goal with 15 as well as goals.

UMass also has some firepower off the bench with players like Nick Zielonka. Zielonka has recorded three goals and an assist on the year despite not starting a single game. The junior forward has given the Minutemen some much-needed security while they rest some of their starters.

Duquesne runs an efficient offense, finding the back of the net on 20 percent of shots taken. Against Howard, the Dukes blasted seven shots past the opposing keeper, the most goals in a single game among A-10 teams. Facilitating the offense is junior Nate Dragisich, who hands out assists like candy on Halloween. Dragisich leads the conference in that department with six.

Duquesne will also look to exploit the goalie situation at UMass. Minutemen keeper Matt Zambetti has missed most of the last two games due to injury. His replacement, Alex Geczy. is coming off a game with zero saves and three goals allowed off six shots. UMass’ defense will take a hit if Zambetti doesn’t return before Saturday.

It’s not the Dukes’ offense that caught the nation’s eye. That would be their defense. Led by goalie Domenic Nascimben, Duquesne has been lights out. Nascimben started all seven games and only gave up three goals. He leads the A-10 in every major goalkeeping statistic, including saves, saves per game, shutouts and more.

Hughes and the offense will need to play quality soccer in order for UMass to come out on top. The Minutemen have slowed down the last two games, but before that, they had showed a ruthlessness in front of goal that will need to come back.

For Duquesne, it will need to force the ball to someone other than Hughes. The Dukes can look to take advantage of the Minutemen by challenging other players to provide.

Catch all the action on the pitch Saturday at Rudd Field at 1 p.m.

Jordan Meneo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JordanMeneo.