MASSACHUSETTS PREVIEW] Without a lot of scholarship money to offer, Massachusetts coach Sam Koch likes to recruit players with a passion for the game. Players who don't mind training outdoors in the middle of the Amherst winter. Those qualities have been big factors in the Minutemen's unexpected ride to the Men's College Cup.
Massachusetts had to come from way back to make the Men's College Cup.
The Minutemen were picked to finish 10th this year in the 14-team Atlantic-10 Conference, but their strong run in the A-10 Tournament, where they beat Dayton, Rhode Island and Charlotte, has carried over to the NCAA Tournament.
Like in the A-10 Tournament, where top seed Saint Louis fell in the semifinals, UMass got a break in the NCAA Tournament when No. 16 seed Tulsa fell the same day it beat top-seed BC, opening up the bracket and allowing it to host its next two games at icy Rudd Field.
The conditions left a lot to be desired -- the quarterfinal against UIC was almost postponed -- but the Minutemen overcame two teams loaded with foreign talent, Central Connecticut State and UIC, to earn their first berth in the Men's College Cup.
Not bad for a program marked for extinction in 1991, the year Koch arrived from Stanford to coach the Minutemen, and offering today a little more than two soccer scholarships.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
1. UMass enters the College Cup as the lowest-scoring team with only 35 goals in 25 games, but it has been effective on set pieces in the postseason. The Minutemen have scored five goals off corner kicks compared to none in the regular season.
2. Mike DeSantis has been big time in midfield for UMass. DeSantis and freshman Ben Arikian will need to shut down Ohio State in the middle.
3. Sophomore Bryan Hogan has come on strong in the postseason. His ability in the air complements the skills of converted midfielder Mark DeSantis, his partner up front.
1 Zack Simmons (JR Durham, N.H.) 0.78 GAA
2 Daniel Lepone (SO Lebanon, Pa.) 0-0-0
5 Chris Brown (JR Tucson, Ariz.) 2-2-6
12 Douglas Rappaport(JR Tucson, Ariz.) 3-5-11
21 Kenny Cook (SR Fairport, N.Y.) 11-3
3 Mike DeSantis (JR Stoneham, Mass.) 4-0-8
4 Ben Arikian (FR West Islip, N.Y.) 2-6-10
13 Greg Cirillo (SR Warren, R.I.) 0-3-3
17 Stuart Amick (FR West Lafayette, Ind.) 5-2-12
11 Bryan Hogan (SO Lititz, Pa.) 8-2-18
18 Mark DeSantis(SO Stoneham, Mass.) 4-6-14
9 Michael Jejna (SO Scottsdale, Ariz.) 1-1-3
10 Prince Ofosu(JR Worcester, Mass.) 4-2-10
23 Chris Vaccaro (FR Stockton, N.J.) 0-0-0