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

Alec Hughes strikes again as UMass beats Central Connecticut State

Minutemen keep a clean sheet in the first win of the season
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

After 10 shots and 61 minutes of scoreless soccer, 2022 Atlantic 10 Conference Co-Player of the Year Alec Hughes scored the winner against Central Connecticut State University. Hughes’ third goal of the year gave UMass a 1-0 victory at home on Monday.

Though scoreless in the first half, the Minutemen (1-0-1) looked strong on both sides of the field. Offensively, they put up five shots with three being on goal within the first 12 minutes. CCSU (0-2-0) goalie Mick Sipples was forced to work from the very first minute with Hughes hitting the top woodwork 46 seconds into the game.

The second half opened with both defenses standing out as only one shot was taken within the first 12 minutes. Central Connecticut State struggled to keep the ball and to create anything when it did have possession.

“I always say that the front six does a lot of defending and if they’re doing well the back four just sweeps up.” head coach Fran O’Leary said. “And I felt tonight there was a much-improved defensive effort from our front six.”

However, the Minutemen struck first with Hughes scoring after a mistake by two Blue Devil defenders who mishandled a ball into the box, leaving Hughes with a wide open shot at the net. It was his third goal in two games and he currently remains the only UMass player to score this season.

“You’ve always got to respect [Hughes],” O’Leary said. “He can score goals but he’s fast. So he can have spells that maybe tonight I thought he was a focal point, but I thought while not getting shots off every five minutes, he put in a tremendous amount of work for the team tonight. It was a really unselfish display by Alec Hughes.”

Some strategies that have been effective for the Minutemen so far are counter attacks and set-piece opportunities from corner kicks and free kicks. The quick-moving and aggressive counter attacks have allowed UMass to put pressure on the goalie and keep the defense on their heels. It successfully controlled the ball against CCSU, putting continuous pressure on Sipples.

“If you’re going to get a lot of free kicks, you’ve got the possibility of entries into the penalty area,” O’Leary said. “I think we came close on several occasions. We hit the crossbar early in the game. We had a couple go across the face of the goal. We’ve just got to focus on details and making sure players are standing in the right position on set plays, and when we get that right I think you’d look back tonight and think we could have had a couple more goals.”

“But the most important thing is that you keep a clean sheet, when you score a goal that you back it up by not conceding, and I think we did a great job at that tonight,” O’Leary concluded.

On the road, the Blue Devils have struggled after losing their season opener against Bryant University (1-0). Central Connecticut State has been winless over its last 11 road games, with the last win to occur on Sep. 30, 2021 against Mount St. Mary’s. The Blue Devils have yet to score a goal in both games on the road this season.

UMass’ dominance of possession of the ball compared to CCSU allowed it to put up more shots on goal and set up opportunities for players such as Hughes and Nick Zielonka. Some notable storylines to watch for will be whether Hughes can keep up his goalscoring streak and break some records, and what other Minutemen will step up their production and help the forward.

UMass’ next matchup will be on Friday as it travels to Providence, Rhode Island to face Brown University. The match is set to start at 7 p.m.

Jonathan Murgida can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @jonathanmurgida

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