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 picks up draw against No. 14 Vermont

Minutemen “stop the rot” with impressive 90-minute performance
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian(2023)

Coming out of three straight shutout losses, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team had a bounce-back performance at home in a 1-1 draw against No. 14 Vermont on Tuesday.

Despite the Catamounts (6-1-2) being their best opponent yet, the Minutemen (3-4-3, 0-2-0 Atlantic 10) showed up to play and controlled most of the contest. UMass held more of the ball, won duels and second balls consistently and outshot Vermont 15-13, with nine of those on target compared to the Catamounts’ six.

“[It was a] terrific performance against one of the top teams in the country, a top-20 team, the number one team in New England, a well-coached team and I think we took the game to them,” Head Coach Fran O’Leary said.

“I thought everybody gave an A-plus performance today for us. We had them on the backfoot for large parts of the game when we needed to. We defended our box superbly. And it’s important to get a good performance today going into an important stretch of games now in the A-10 … We got a result against a top-20 team. We can be very proud of how we’ve done today, and it gives us a lot of confidence and belief going into our next game.”

Alec Hughes got back to his scoring ways when he put UMass on the board in the ninth minute. Shane Velez flicked a ball over the top into the Catamounts’ 18-yard box which Hughes picked up nicely. He then wrestled off a defender and hit it with his right foot on a half-volley which bounced past the keeper into the left side of the goal.

“Going through slumps are tough, I mean, you just got to stay within yourself,” Hughes said. “And I try to do that, but I mean, at times it gets hard. So, seeing one in the net definitely brings me back up and hopefully it carries over into the weekend.”

With his eighth goal of the season and the 28th of his career, Hughes moved into a tie for eighth place in UMass’ all-time career goals list, matching Alfred Hoelzel (1951-53). He has scored two-thirds of the Minutemen’s goals this season.

“[Hughes has] had a little dry spell, if not the top he’s one of the top strikers in the country and he’s back and moving now, which is great news for us,” O’Leary said.

Not long after, the Catamounts responded with an equalizer in the 17th minute through some quick-hitting combination play on the right side. Sydney Wathuta hit the ball with one touch into the bottom of the net after Carter Johnson found him in the center of the box.

O’Leary prides himself in the structure of his team, and it showed on Tuesday as Vermont struggled to create anything from the start. Considering the No. 14 Catamounts dismantled UMass in a 3-0 win last season, this group has great improvement to show for, with its biggest strength residing in its structure and off-the-ball ability.

Minuteman goalkeeper Alex Geczy had his first start of the season with usual starter Matt Zambetti getting a rest, according to O’Leary.

“I thought he was superb,” O’Leary said. “I thought Geczy came in and was absolutely terrific.”

Geczy made a career-high five saves in the match with help from center back Aidan Kelly who was dominant once again.

In three of its last four games before Vermont came to town, UMass conceded a goal in the final five minutes of the game. The team was five minutes away from two ties and one win, and instead ended with two losses and one tie. Not only that, but the other game in that period was a 1-0 loss to Duquesne in which UMass outshot the Dukes 26-5.

The Catamounts pressured the Minutemen heavily in the final minutes, but this time the hosts didn’t allow history to repeat itself and held on with composure at the dying moments.

“[This result] sort of stopped the rot,” O’Leary said. “With the exception of the Holy Cross [game], all the performances have been good.”

Despite the four losses in the season and a lack of goalscoring outside of Hughes, this is a much tougher team than the record suggests.

The Minutemen will cap off a three-game homestand on Saturday, Sept. 30 against George Washington. Kickoff is set for noon.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.

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