UMass Sports Recap/Preview – End of September/Early October

By: Freeman Alfano

Football

Caroline O’Connor, UMass Athletics

Two weeks ago, the Minutemen defeated the Akron Zips 37-29 in Amherst for their first win of 2019 and Walt Bell’s head coaching career. That has been one of the only bright spots this season, as the team followed up that dramatic W with a 44-0 shutout loss to the FIU Panthers. 

The victory against Akron was fun and exciting, especially considering the encouraging play from third-string quarterback Michael Curtis. Although he battled through cramps late in the game, he helped the Minutemen throw for over 200 yards and tossed two touchdowns, including a dime on fourth and three on the goal line to Sadiq Palmer. Also showing out in this one was Isaiah Rodgers, who returned an interception 58 yards to the house. The do-it-all cornerback is now tied for fourth in the FBS in interceptions this season with three on the year.

Despite the big win, the Minutemen still have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. Massachusetts has the fourth-worst yards per pass attempt in the FBS this season with 5.2, which is actually an improvement from a couple of weeks ago. On the other end, the Minutemen have let up 244 rushing yards per game, which is also good for fourth-worst in the FBS. This was the main reason they weren’t able to compete against FIU, as the Panthers out-rushed Massachusetts by 240 yards. 

The team will take on Louisiana Tech this Saturday at 7 p.m. looking to get their second win in three games and their first win on the road. The Bulldogs’ balanced offense has carried them to a 4-1 record so far with their only loss being against #10 Texas in their season opener. 

Hockey

The Militia 2019 Hockey Open Practice

At the end of their 2018-2019 season, the Massachusetts Men’s Hockey team comes out as reigning Conference Champions and NCAA Finalists. They made history as the first Minutemen team to make it to the Frozen Four, an achievement well deserved by their amazing play throughout the season. Having stayed in the top of the rankings all year, they finished second in the NCAA Men’s Hockey Rankings with a record of 31-10-0 and just one home loss. 

This year, they hope to keep the momentum going by extending coach Greg Carvel’s contract through the 2023-2024 season as well as extending assistant coaches Jared DeMichiel and Brett Barr and appointing new captains Mitchell Chaffee, who finished last season with 79 career points, and Niko Hildenbrand, who finished last season with 105 career points. The Minutemen also added nine new freshmen, including Zac Jones and Reed Lebster, to help push the team going forward. As of right now, Massachusetts is ranked number four in the NCAA Men’s Hockey Rankings, and will look to prove their status as an elite team in the post Cale Makar era.

This Friday October 11 is the team’s home opener against Rensselaer at 7 pm in the Mullins Center. Last season, UMass achieved victory over them both times they played RPI; winning their first matchup 6-1 and the second by a score of 3-1. Friday night should be an exciting game, and we’re expecting a great turnout to keep the Mullins Center rocking in 2019. Next week, the Minutemen take on #15 Northeastern on the road, followed by two home matchups against Union College next Friday and Saturday. Go UMass! 

-Brianna Repetto

Men’s Soccer

UMass Athletics

After a dominant start to the season in which they outscored their opponents 12-1, the Minutemen are in a bit of a slump. Massachusetts has lost their last six games, including four matches by just one goal. This run has been marked by tough losses to rivals UMass Lowell and Boston College, along with their last three defeats against Atlantic 10 opponents. 

The biggest issue for Massachusetts since the start of their losing streak has been their scoring (or lack thereof). Since September 17, when their losing streak started, the Minutemen have scored just one goal and have not scored in their last five games. Turning around the offense and developing a consistent attack will be key to this team getting back on track to how they started off.

Up next, the Minutemen will take on Fordham on Saturday at Rudd, followed by a second straight home matchup against Yale on Tuesday. Each matchup will present an entirely different level of competition, as Fordham comes into the game with a 3-8-1 overall record, while the Bulldogs are undefeated this season with two ties.

Women’s Soccer

Thom Kendall, UMass Athletics

The Minutewomen soccer team has fared better recently than their male counterparts. Heading into Columbus Day weekend, Massachusetts is two games above .500 with a notable tie against #21 Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. Their last two games have gone to overtime, with the Minutewomen recording a 1-1 record in these extra time matchups. All of their last five games have been against Atlantic 10 opponents, during which the team has a respectable 3-2 record. 

The key for the Minutewomen’s success this season has been their ability to come up clutch and score timely goals. In addition to the overtime winner by Sini Laaksonen against Rhode Island last Sunday, Massachusetts scored three straight, including the eighth and ninth goals of the season by Melissa Kossler, against Saint Joseph’s to secure a come-from-behind 4-3 victory. Additionally, the Minutewomen scored those three goals between the 70th and 80th minutes, and the game tying and winning goals came just 40 seconds apart from one another.

Massachusetts will conclude their season with five more Atlantic 10 games, including two straight starting this Sunday at Rudd. The Minutewomen will take on Dayton on Sunday and Davidson next Thursday. While Dayton has been mediocre this season, the Wildcats will present more of a challenge, as they are currently four games above .500 and have a 3-1-1 Atlantic 10 Conference record this season.

Field Hockey

Thom Kendall, UMass Athletics

While the Minutewomen have been struggling as of late, they recently had their most important win of the season. Last Friday, Massachusetts defeated #25 Northeastern 2-0 for the team’s first win against a ranked opponent this season. Interestingly enough, the game featured goals by the Minutewomen in the first and last minutes of the matchup, but none in between from either side. 

Outside of the dramatic Northeastern victory, however, Massachusetts has lost three of their last four games and five of their last seven. While three of these losses have come against ranked opponents, this stretch certainly isn’t what the team envisioned after defeating Yale 4-1 and Dartmouth 1-0 in an overtime thriller. 

Luckily for the Minutewomen, they have just one ranked opponent left on their schedule after facing six to start the season. They will look to change their losing ways starting this Friday on the road against Davidson, followed by two more road matchups against Lock Haven and Francis next weekend. 

Review of the first half of September for Umass Athletics!