The University of Massachusetts men’s soccer team returns home to host the UMass Soccer Classic at Rudd Field over the weekend. The action kicks off at 2:30 P.M. Friday afternoon when the Minutemen (2-3-1) face off against America East’s Hartford Hawks (3-2-2). Game 2 begins at 4:30 P.M. with Atlantic 10’s Rhode Island Rams (3-3) playing America East’s Vermont Catamounts (3-2-2).
The Minutemen look to get back on the winning track after failing to secure a victory in three consecutive road games at Old Dominion, at William and Mary, and at New Hampshire.
“The Classic is a chance for us to get some wins, and most importantly get us to where we want to be,” said UMass head coach Sam Koch.
The Minutemen are back home in their comfort zone at Rudd Field in front of the home crowd. Dating back to last season, UMass is 10-1 in their last 11 games in Amherst. On Sept. 6, they defeated the visiting Siena Saints 1-0.
“Our spirits are high, and we are happy to be home,” said coach Koch. “We love playing on the familiar natural grass, as opposed to artificial turf. When were on fake grass it’s ‘like where are we’?”
The Minutemen are a team built around defense. In their most recent loss to New Hampshire, they allowed two goals and a number of other scoring opportunities. Hartford boasts some offensive firepower, led by junior forward Carlos Villa. Villa has tallied eight goals in seven games to lead the America East Conference.
“It is important we stay compact defensively to stop the Hartford attack,” said Coach Koch.
Last season, UMass traveled to Hartford and blanked the Hawks 1-0. UMass senior goalkeeper Zack Simmons feels to beat the talented Hartford squad again, they must stick to their strategy.
“We are two fairly matched teams, not the most skilled, but tactical” Simmons said. “It will come down to who executes better and doesn’t try to play over their heads.”
The Hawks come into Amherst riding a two game winning streak. They have consecutive 3-0 home victories over the Bryant Bulldogs and the Canisius Griffins.
Last season’s run to the College Cup has had lasting effects. Opponents are circling the Minutemen on the schedule after the success they enjoyed last season.
“Emotionally teams are rising to play against us,” said coach Koch. “We are getting every other team’s best which makes it difficult.”
The Classic continues on Sunday with Rhode Island and Hartford kicking off at noon. Host UMass faces Vermont at 2:00 P.M. in the final game of the event.