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Davis Smith, Alex DeSantis lead UMass men’s soccer to Atlantic 10 Tournament championship

  • The UMass men’s soccer team celebrates its Atlantic 10 Tournament championship after beating VCU, 3-1, Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. Erik Schelkun

  • The UMass men’s soccer team celebrates its Atlantic 10 Tournament championship after beating VCU, 3-1, Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. Erik Schelkun



For the Gazette
Sunday, November 12, 2017

The UMass men’s soccer team captured its third Atlantic-10 Tournament championship in program history by taking down VCU, 3-1, at Dayton’s Baujan Field Sunday afternoon.

It’s the Minutemen’s first A-10 title since 2007 and also clinches them a spot in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship.

“We’ve come a long way. A couple of years ago we were 1-10 to kick off the season,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “To now be back in the NCAA Tournament, I think the last time was 2008. I don’t think at the beginning of the season many people thought we would but we are here, we’ve earned it, and we’ve enjoyed it.”

A tight defensive contest in the first half yielded a combined three shots on goal. Senior goalkeeper Bardia Asefnia saved the Minutemen from going down early with a quick reaction off a deflected shot in the box, keeping it a scoreless into halftime.

After halftime, both teams picked up the attack and pushed the pace of play to create more chances. The shot total doubled in the second half with VCU outshooting UMass, 15-5. However, UMass capitalized on three of its five chances in the second half.

UMass struck first when a struggle for possession in front of the VCU net led to an easy goal for senior Matthew Mooney. Junior Konrad Gorich headed the ball to the edge of the box where Mooney was wide open to put it in.

When VCU tied it up, that woke up the Minutemen.

“I think the most important phase of the game was after VCU scored,” O’Leary said. “We were looking quite comfortable then VCU scored and pounded us for the next 10 minutes. We showed good resilience and managed to come back and win the tournament.”

With 13 minutes to go in regulation, A UMass player poked a VCU pass out at midfield. On the ensuing fast break, Amherst native Davis Smith went wide while Mooney sent a cross back to him for the eventual go-ahead goal.

The Minutemen added an insurance goal from Belchertown native Alex DeSantis in the 89th minute of a nice assist from Smith.

The NCAA Tournament selection show is 1 p.m. Monday.

“As I say when you buy something, you’ve got to enjoy it. We’ve bought ourselves an NCAA playoff game so you want to enjoy it,” O’Leary said.