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 men’s soccer falls to reigning national champions Clemson, 3-1

Alec Hughes scores lone Minutemen goal in 34th minute
Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian (2022)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team got off to a strong start against the reigning national champions Clemson on Monday night in South Carolina. In the end, however, the Minutemen (6-3-7, 1-1-5 Atlantic 10)  could not come home with the road win, falling 3-1.

UMass started the game with a quality defensive performance against Clemson (9-5-1, 2-4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), keeping the Tigers scoreless in the first half despite 14 shot attempts in the half.

“I thought it was a really good game, proud of our guys, we put a fright into the national champions,” head coach Fran O’Leary said. “Just a little bit of quality from them in the second half, a couple of times hurt us. But couldn’t be prouder of our guys [Monday], we were resilient, to come on the road against the national champions and compete for 90 minutes.”

Goalie Matt Zambetti made three saves in the first half and finished the game with eight saves, tied for his most of the season thus far. Zambetti and the UMass defense faced a storm of Clemson shots, with the Tigers attempting 27 shots with 11 shots on goal.

“I thought [Zambetti] was superb, I thought everything, his distribution, his kicking, his overall presence was superb. He should gain an awful lot of confidence,” O’Leary said.

Alec Hughes scored the Minutemen’s lone goal of the game in the 34th minute from the middle of the box after being set up by a beautiful pass from Evan Fournier. Fournier left the ball in a perfect position for Hughes to make an elite move to get by the Clemson goaltender and score.

The goal was Hughes’ team-leading ninth goal of the season, and Fournier added to his team-leading assist total of five for the season.

“Really good goal, really well taken by [Hughes] and a quality move by [Fournier]. To come on the road against such a good team, to go up was great,” O’Leary said.

UMass went into halftime with confidence, earning a one goal lead over the defending champions after a solid body of work in the first half.

However, the Minutemen’s lead quickly evaporated in the second half as Clemson equalized with a goal from Enrique Montana in the 50th minute.  Less than two minutes after the initial goal, Clemson took the lead in the 52nd minute with a score from Joseph Skinner. The Tigers would put the game out of reach for UMass in the 68th minute when they took a 3-1 lead off an Isaiah Easley goal.

“I thought we stuck toe to toe with them throughout the game, they dominated the ball, as you expect from a very good team but our guys were very brave and competed ferociously,” O’Leary said.

In their next game, the Minutemen will face a must-win in-conference game against Dayton. The game will take place on Saturday at 12 p.m. from Rudd Field with a chance to potentially qualify for the A-10 conference tournament. Saturday will also be senior day for the UMass seniors.

“If we give that level of commitment and show that level of courage, we will give a very good Dayton team a very long game,” O’Leary said.

Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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