Alec Hughes’ hat trick gives UMass a 4-1 victory over George Washington

The Minutemen pick up their first conference win of the season


Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian (2016)

By Jordan Meneo, Collegian Staff

On a wet October afternoon, The Massachusetts men’s soccer team displayed an impressive performance with a 4-1 victory over George Washington University. The Minutemen’s (6-0-5, 1-0-3 Atlantic 10) three first-half goals proved too much for the Colonials (5-5-2, 1-3 A-10) to overcome as UMass picked up its first conference victory.

“To come on the road and score four goals against any conference opponent is a good day’s work,” Head coach Fran O’Leary said after the game.

Alec Hughes put on a master class performance for the Minutemen. Coming into Wednesday afternoon, Hughes was second in the conference for goals scored; after leaving the pitch, he claimed the top spot. Hughes captured the conference’s first hat trick this season in the first 45 minutes of the game.

“He was superb today,” O’Leary said. “His attitude all season has been great, he works hard for the team and he does a lot of unselfish work.”

Despite the lopsided score, the Colonials’ offense was on par with UMass on the stat sheet. GW got off 20 shots, nine more than the Minuteman. Additionally, the Colonials had just one less shot on goal with five.

The Colonials began the match as the aggressors with the team’s leading scorer, Oscar Haynes Brown, getting a shot off just two minutes in. UMass’ response, however, put it on the scoreboard as Hughes slipped the ball under GW goalkeeper Justin Grady for the 1-0 lead.

Ten minutes later, UMass once again found the back of the net. After a poor touch from Grady, Hughes gained control of the ball and tapped it in the open net for a quick 2-0 just over fifteen minutes into the contest. After Hughes’ goal, the Minutemen continued their pressure on the opposing end with three shots in the following five minutes. However, the Colonials’ counterattack found a dent in UMass’ armor as Haynes Brown sprinted down the left side of the pitch like lightning. Brown took it himself, finessing the ball just out of Minuteman keeper Matt Zambetti’s reach.

UMass ensured the celebrations were short-lived. After a Minuteman corner kick, the ball scrambled in front of the net until it found itself at the foot of Hughes yet again before crossing the line for a 3-1 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the half. Hughes took the opportunity to celebrate his hat trick by jogging to the corner of the pitch with his teammates.

After three goals were given up, Grady’s time on the pitch came to an end with sophomore Richard Raupp taking over duties in the net. As the half winded down, Hughes searched for his fourth goal, firing a shot from range. Unfortunately for Hughes, it went right to Raupp for an easy save.

Coming out of the half, the Minutemen kept the pedal to the metal. Just over two minutes after kickoff, forward Nick Zielonka got lost in the defense before receiving the ball in front of the net with zero GW defenders around him. After a brief stare down with Raupp, Zielonka launched the ball to the back of the net as a deflating sigh fell upon the Colonial crowd. UMass held a firm 4-1 lead.

Following the goal, tensions between the conference foes grew rapidly. With emotions high, the Minutemen continued their in-your-face style of play. Andrew Ortiz, Aidan Kelly and Aaron O’Malley each got booked with a yellow card in the span of eight minutes. UMass picked up 14 fouls in the second half.

As the half carried on, George Washington’s offense picked up. With three of 12 second-half shots on target, Zambetti was challenged often. The goalkeeper stepped up in these moments, saving every shot on target until the scoreboard showed zeros.

While the Minutemen’s scoring was a show-stealing spectacle, their defense played a big part in the victory. Continuing their high press, as they have the whole season, the Colonials found themselves unable to keep possession of the ball. Additionally, UMass was as aggressive as ever with 12 fouls after 45 minutes.

With the victory, the Minutemen ended their streak of three consecutive draws and also picked up their first A-10 victory.

UMass will return to the pitch Saturday to face another conference opponent in Saint Joseph’s. Kickoff is set for noon.

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