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From intramurals to College Cup star
December 11th, 2007 8AM

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Paul Kennedy begins the Men's College Cup Countdown
A member of three state championship teams at New Hampshire's Oyster River High School, Zach Simmons toyed with the eye of playing Division I college soccer.

Problem was, no one was interested, so he put out feelers to Division III schools, but when they didn't respond, he got the hint.

College soccer wasn't to be.

MEN'S COLLEGE CUP
Semifinals
Dec. 15 in Cary, N.C.
2-Wake Forest (20-2-2) vs. 11-Virginia Tech (14-3-5)
5-Ohio State (16-3-5) vs. Massachusetts (17-7-1)

Not that he was crushed. Simmons was by his own admission burned out on soccer -- he preferred basketball, in which he was also all-state at Oyster River -- so he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, where he signed up for a double major in history and economics with the idea of entering the law.

To be sure, Simmons played soccer the fall of his freshman year -- intramurals and club soccer -- but he did it  "just to have something to do."

A club teammate convinced to attend open tryouts for the varsity the next spring, and he made the UMass spring team as a backup when the No. 2 keeper got hurt.

By the fall, the incumbent, Nick Billman, was also out, and UMass coach Sam Koch installed Simmons as the starter for the second game of the 2005 season against Michigan.

The Minutemen won, 3-1, and Simmons has been the starter ever since.

Now a junior, Simmons already holds the UMass career record for shutouts (23) and saves (296). He was named the MVP of the 2007 Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament and earned A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year honors for his work in the classroom (3.99 grade point average) and on the field.

In the biggest game of his career on Sunday, the 6-foot-2 Simmons held off a late UIC flurry to preserve the Minutemen's 2-1 win that moved them into the Men's College Cup for the first time.

For a player who was unwanted coming out of high school, Simmons will next face the decision of whether to extend his college career after graduation.

He has one more year of eligibility.

ACC NATION
Listen to Soccer America's Paul Kennedy analyze the Men's College Cup on Monday's ACC Nation.



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