Paul Kennedy examines the upset of the year
Massachusetts' 2-1 victory over No. 1 seed Boston College Wednesday night will go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament, but it certainly wasn't a fluke.
The Minutemen came back from a 1-0 deficit at halftime and owned the second half.
UMass had BC pinned down and won on goals by sophomores Bryan Hogan and junior Mike DeSantis, both off corner kicks.
Late in the first half, UMass had started to take the initiative and began to step up to pressure the Eagles, missing Ghanaian playmaker Reuben Ayarna, who was injured in the ACC Tournament. It gave the Minutemen the confidence to attack BC.
"In our halftime meeting," said UMass keeper Zach Simmons, "we said we can play with these guys."
Hogan beat giant BC keeper Chris Brown with a header at the far post in the 51st minute to step up the pressure on BC.
"They're the ones that I think were feeling it in the second half," UMass coach Sam Koch said, "and we tried to do everything we could to take advantage of that."
While BC coach Ed Kelly bemoaned the absence of Ayarna in midfield, he said the Eagles simply didn't do enough to win.
"It was not like we were unlucky," he said. "It's not like the referees were bad or this happened or that happened. We just didn't do enough and we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and face the fact that we just didn't get enough chances."
The Minutemen peppered Brown with shots and eventually won -- on their 11th corner of the game -- when DeSantis scored off Douglas Rappaport's ball into the area.
About the only surprise was that both goals came off corner kicks. UMass had not scored off a corner kick in the regular season.
After it went three straight seasons without a winning record, little was expected of UMass in 2007. But after a 2-4-0 start to the season, the Minutemen have gone 13-3-1 since then. Included in that run were wins over three teams that made the NCAA Tournament: Dartmouth, Boston University (twice) and Saint Louis.
DeSantis and brother brother Mark, also a UMass starter, are the only in-state players in the starting lineup that also includes two players apiece from Arizona, New York and Pennsylvania and one each from Indiana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
With no big star -- Hogan is the Minutemen's leading scorer with six goals -- Koch has preached the team concept -- he loves to talk about the Boston Celtics -- and spent wisely.
UMass offers the equivalent of 2.5 men's soccer scholarships -- well below the maximum of 9.9 offered by most of the teams in the NCAA Tournament.