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 wins third straight, beating Saint Joseph’s 2-1

Michael Rojas and Mike Willis net goals in win
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

After a chaotic final minute in Philadelphia, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team was able to come away with its third consecutive victory, 2-1 over Saint Joseph’s. The Minutemen (6-4-3, 3-2-0 Atlantic 10) are now in prime position for an A-10 playoff spot after fending off the feisty Hawks (3-9-1, 1-3-1 A-10) on Saturday night.

“Very, very pleased,” head coach Fran O’Leary said of the performance. “Come-from-behind win on the road. That’s two conference come-from-behind wins in four days. St. Joe’s is a really hard place to play. To give a goal away early, come back, and then get a win is very pleasing.”

The Hawks battled until the final seconds of the game on Saturday. In the 89th minute with 40 seconds on the clock, Saint Joseph’s Alex Hood had a wide-open shot against UMass goalkeeper Matt Zambetti that was deflected off Zambetti’s foot and ultimately cleared after a scramble in the goal area. The critical save put the Minutemen in the win column after a competitive 90 minutes.

“I think it was just a lot of courageous defending,” O’Leary said. “Guys were sticking their heads in, winning first balls. And if we didn’t win the first balls, someone was always there to back them up. St. Joe’s has some really big players, and obviously later in the game they’re going to put balls in on you and you have to deal with them.”

“I thought we did superbly well,” he added, “Matt Zambetti wasn’t asked to do a lot but pulled off a big save right at the end and it was enough to get us there to three points and move us up the league table, so [I’m] very happy.”

Saint Joseph’s struck early in the game, leaving UMass playing from behind early on. Fletcher Caponecchia scored a goal in the second minute off a quality pass that gave him a one-on-one chance against Zambetti. Caponecchia easily scored, putting the ball to the right of the Minutemen goalkeeper.

But after conceding the early goal, UMass was able to tie things up at one apiece in the 17th minute. Alec Hughes sent the ball inside the box to Michael Rojas who got the ball off a deflected shot and scored into the bottom right of the net. With the goal, Rojas continued his recent hot streak, scoring his second goal in three games. He played a season-high 77 minutes on Saturday.

In the 52nd minute, Nick Zielonka dealt a cross to Mike Willis who put home a goal past Trevor Jackson on the left post side. The goal gave the Minutemen a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish. For Zielonka, it was his team-leading seventh assist of the season.

“We thought some time ago that we need goals from our midfield,” O’Leary said. “And we’ve been getting them in conference now, it’s something we didn’t have earlier in the season…so we’re getting goals and assists, getting productivity out of midfield, which is very important if we’re going to piece together a good season.”

On the stat sheet, the Hawks and Minutemen were nearly equal. Saint Joseph’s put up 12 shots while UMass had 13. The Minutemen had four shots on goal compared to the Hawks’ two. With UMass losing and drawing many close games earlier in the season and giving up goals in the final minutes against Dartmouth, Holy Cross, and Virginia Commonwealth, it was a win the Minutemen needed.

“Winning a game in the conference is hard, to win a road game is hard in the conference. We just won three in a row in the conference and two of the three are come from behind wins on the road. So, this puts us one step closer to making the A-10 playoffs,” O’Leary said.

The Minutemen will return to the field on Saturday, Oct. 14 to face Fordham at Rudd Field. Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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