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 beats Saint Louis in penalties in A-10 quarterfinal

Matt Zambetti makes game-winning save to send Minutemen to A-10 semifinal
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

In what was a thrilling and nerve-wracking game, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team left St. Louis with an opening round Atlantic 10 playoff win. UMass (7-5-5, 4-3-1 A-10) eliminated the defending A-10 champions Saint Louis (8-4-5, 4-1-3 A-10) from the tournament with a stunning 4-3 win in the penalty shootout.

A game that was tied at 2-2 after 110 minutes of play, the Minutemen and Billikens competed in a penalty shootout to decide the winner. After the first round of five penalty kicks saw UMass and Saint Louis tie 3-3, the extra round of penalties saw Andrew Ortiz score a penalty and then Matt Zambetti make an incredible save to seal the shootout win.

“Obviously delighted with the win,” head coach Fran O’Leary said. “Huge credit to our guys, I thought we suffered a lot [Friday]. We had to physically compete at the max to get a result on the road against a very good team. To come from behind to send it to overtime and to send it to penalties is a huge credit to our guys. They all suffered [Friday], they gave massive exertion levels, they can all be very proud of their performances.”

With the season on the line, it was Zambetti who was the hero, coming up with two of the biggest saves of his life. First, with the Minutemen needing a save to stay alive, tied 3-3 in penalties, Zambetti came up with the save against Jack Sullivan. Then, with a chance to win the game with a save, Zambetti made another save, this time against Matthew Wrobel. After the game-winning save, the entire team piled on top of Zambetti in celebration.

“[Zambetti] was superb,” O’Leary said. “He made a couple terrific saves in the game to send us into the penalty shootout … it went back and forth, he’s a terrific reflex goalkeeper and we looked good. Then it went a little pear-shaped on us and then [Zambetti] pulled off some terrific saves.”

Alec Hughes opened the scoring in the 47th minute to give UMass the 1-0 lead against the Billikens. Freshman Shane Velez sent a long through ball ahead to Alec Hughes who scored from the left flank into the right side of the goal.

After the Hughes goal, UMass faced an onslaught from the Saint Louis offense, specifically from Mads Stistrup Petersen. Stistrup Petersen recorded goals in the 55th and 58th minute to give the Billikens a 2-1 lead.

“We’ve come back a lot this season, so we’ve shown good composure and it’s an experienced team with seniors and juniors,” O’Leary said. “We got two terrific goals tonight from [Hughes and Nick Zielonka]. But I thought our back four and goalkeeper were immense throughout the game against a very good Saint Louis attack”

From then on, everything had to go right for the Minutemen to escape St. Louis with the win. Zielonka scored in the 74th minute to tie the game off a pass from Anthony Catanzaro. Catanzaro, a freshman from West Hartford, Conn. played a career-high 51 minutes in the biggest game of the year thus far.

“I think it’s a good sign for the future of the program,” O’Leary said. “They were both assisted by freshmen. [Velez] knocked a terrific pass through to Alec for the first goal, and [Catanzaro] was involved in laying on the second goal. So we got a boost off the bench from a couple young guys which really helped us tonight.”

Even in the final seconds of regulation, the Billikens were fighting to come away with the win.

With 7 minutes left, Zambetti made a heart stopping save after a scramble in front of the UMass goal. The save from Zambetti prevented what could have been a game winning goal from the Billikens.

After 90 minutes of play, UMass and Saint Louis were tied at two apiece, setting up a 20 minute overtime period with 10 minute halves. The overtime was scoreless and it set up the penalty shootout which the Minutemen won after a stellar goalkeeping effort from Zambetti to keep the season alive.

“The most important thing is that we didn’t give up a goal. We did very well there, we nullified a lot of the threat in the overtime and just big credit to the team,” O’Leary said.

The Minutemen are scheduled to return to the field on Wednesday Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. to take on Virginia Commonwealth in the A-10 semifinals.

Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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