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AMHERST, Mass. -
UMass Faces Illinois-Chicago In Elite Eight Match At Fort Rudd
Two of the country's top defensive teams meet on Sunday at Noon when the Illinois-Chicago Flames visit the UMass men's soccer team at Rudd Field in the NCAA Men's Soccer Elite Eight. Both teams were unseeded to begin the NCAA Tournament, yet have won three consecutive games to get to this point. UMass enters the match with a 16-7-1 overall record - the most wins in school history - while UIC is 13-5-6. The Minutemen, champions of the Atlantic 10, defeated Boston University in the first round, No. 1-seed Boston College in the second round and Central Connecticut in the third round to make the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The Flames, who have played all their tournament games on the road, upset Saint Louis in the opening round, No. 9-seed Northwestern in the second round, and No. 8-seed Creighton in the third round.
The winner will advance to the NCAA Tournament College Cup hosted in Cary, N.C., beginning next Friday. Both semifinal games and the championship game will be carried on the ESPN family of networks. The winner of this game will face the winner of the No. 5-seed Ohio State/Bradley match.
Ticket prices will be $8 for adults, $5 for children (18 and under), and $2 for students with a UMass ID. Tickets will go on sale Tuesday morning at the Mullins Center Box Office or can be ordered by phone at 866-UMASS-TIX.
UMass In The NCAA Tourney
This is UMass' second all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In 2001, UMass also qualified for the tournament defeating Creighton 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to St. John's 1-0 in the second round.
Both NCAA Tournament appearances have come under the guidance of head coach Sam Koch. In Koch's time at UMass, 12 teams have posted 10 wins or more - the most ever for any coach of the Minutemen.
NCAA Tournament Recap So Far
In the NCAA First Round, UMass hosted its first ever NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament game at Rudd Field and survived a late Boston University rally to win 2-1. UMass led 2-0 for much of the match, but the Terriers scored in the 87th minute and had an open net shot deflect off the right post with 40 seconds remaining to give the final score.
Five days later, the Minutemen used a dominating second half to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit for the historic win at Boston College - making the Eagles the earliest No. 1-seed to depart the tournament in NCAA men's soccer history. Bryan Hogan and Mike DeSantis each scored goals in the period. Hogan scored within the first five minutes of the second half, while DeSantis nailed the game-winner with under five minutes remaining in the game. The Eagles controlled the pace of play in the first half keeping UMass under constant pressure, but several halftime defensive adjustments allowed the Minutemen to reverse their fortunes in the second half. The UMass offense forced BC keeper Chris Brown to make a season-high nine saves in the loss.
In the bitter cold of last Sunday, both teams dealt with an hour-long delay after the opening 10 minutes of play before UMass scored three late second half goals to defeat Central Connecticut, 3-1. Bryan Hogan was dialed in as he scored UMass first two goals before Prince Ofosu added an insurance strike. The game was played in front of a Rudd Field record 1,197 fans.
It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish
After a slow 2-4 start to the season, the Minutemen have gone 14-3-1 with nine shutouts since the first six games. Included in that run were wins at then-No. 12 Saint Louis, a 1-0 win over two-time defending A-10 Champion Rhode Island in the A-10 Tournament, the win over Boston University in the NCAA First Round, and the win over No. 1-seeded Boston College in the NCAA Second Round.
The 16 wins this season sets a new school record for wins in a season. This is the fourth time in school history that a team has notched 15-or-more wins: 1985, 1995, 2001, and 2007.
The Minutemen made their 10th trip to the A-10 Tournament since joining the league in 1987. All-time, the Minutemen are now 6-6-3 and have two conference titles (2001, 2007). In the NCAA Tournament, UMass is now 4-1 overall.
UIC is led by Cesar Zambrano who has six goals and seven assists. Pavle Dundjer and Matt Spiess are tied with 13 points on five goals and three assists each, while Charlie Trout has four goals and three assists. The Horizon League Champions are a strong defensive minded team like the Minutemen. The Flames have one of the top keepers in the country in Jovan Bubonja who has a goals-against-average of 0.50 allowing just 12 goals in 23 games and just one in the last eight matches. Every game for UIC in the NCAA Tournament has been a shutout giving the team 14 for the season. Like UMass, UIC started slowly going 4-3-5 to start the season, but have gone 9-2-1 since then including three overtime wins.
Sophomores Bryan Hogan and Mark DeSantis lead UMass offensively with 18 points and 13 points, respectively. Hogan has eight goals and two assists, while DeSantis has four goals and five assists. Hogan is the team's top scorer for the second year of his career and has doubled his freshman year scoring output. Along with DeSantis, Douglas Rappaport has five assists, while freshman Ben Arikian leads the team with six. Defense, however, is where the Minutemen excel pitching nine shutouts and allowing just 19 goals - the fewest since the 1979 squad allowed 13.
Zack Simmons has been the keeper of record for the season playing every minute between the posts. He boasts a 0.77 goals-against-average and a .849 save percentage. In front of him is an experienced and veteran defensive row anchored by three-time All-Conference selection senior Kenny Cook. In the centerback positions, Cook and redshirt junior Chris Brown solidify the four-man unit with Rappaport and sophomore Dan Lepone manning the flanks.
Simmons is UMass' All-Time Goalkeeper
With nine shutouts this season, redshirt junior goalkeeper Zack Simmons has etched his name into the UMass record books becoming the program's all-time shutout leader with 23. He also holds the school record for single-season shutouts (10) set in 2006 and has a chance to tie that record today. With 11 saves against Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, Simmons took hold of the UMass career saves record. In just three seasons, he has stopped 291 shots. He is on pace to set the single-season goals against average record as well. Entering today's game, Simmons is allowing just 0.76 goals per game. The school record is 0.87 set by Mark Hodgdon in 1977.
Simmons recorded his 17th career shutout on Sept. 22 in a 2-0 win at Hartford, which passed Bryan O'Quinn who had 16 shutouts from 1998-01.
Along with his nine clean sheets this season, Simmons had 10 in 2006 and four in 2005. His 10 shutouts in 2006 set a new single-season mark for the program as well. His nine shutouts this year ranks second all-time for a single-season.
The former walk-on needs one more win for UMass all-time keeper record in that category and is close to the career goals against average record of 0.96. In three years, Simmons has posted a 1.02 GAA. Since his first year with the team in 2005, he has cut his GAA nearly in half from 1.43 goals against. In his time at UMass, he boasts a 31-23-6 all-time record.
He currently ranks 11th in the NCAA in save percentage (.853) and 29th in goals against average (0.77).
Iron Men Of The Flat Back Four
UMass defenders Chris Brown and Kenny Cook will start their 64th consecutive games on Friday. The pair have played in every game dating back to the beginning of the 2005 season. Not only have they started every game, but the pair rarely leave the central backfield. In that streak, UMass has pitched 23 shutouts mainly due to Brown and Cook's consistency.
O'Brother Where Art Thou?
Mike and Mark DeSantis don't have to ask that question that often as both are usually on the pitch at the same time. Mike, the older of the two by a year, is a solid midfielder who aides as much defensively as he does offensively. For his career, he has played in 63 games starting 59 matches. Mark has spent time in both the midfielder and at forward and has had a break out year offensively as the team's second leading scorer. Both were standouts at Stoneham High School just outside of Boston.
Rappaort A Scholar And An Athlete
Douglas Rappaport earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Second-Team honors after his successful return to the men's soccer team. The two-time Atlantic 10 Academic All-Conference selection is a double-major in political science and pre-med. He missed the 2006 season after having off season surgery on his ankle and then moving back home to Arizona for rehab. While undergoing rehab, he also attended classes at the University of Arizona and then did a study abroad program in Florence, Italy before returning to Amherst. With the injury to incumbent left fullback Trevor Singer, Rappaport moved from his native midfield position back to defense where his presence has truly made a difference.
True Home Field Advantage At Fort Rudd
Few home fields yield such a distinct advantage as Rudd Field. At home UMass is 36-16-5 since the facility opened in 2002. All told, UMass has pitched 20 shutouts at home and outscored opponents by a 109-71 margin. The Minutemen have scored four or more goals at home on 10 occasions, while allowing that total just once.
This season, the Minutemen pitched four shutouts at Rudd, while allowing just seven goals and posted a 8-1-0 record.
Sophomore Bryan Hogan scored the 100th goal in Rudd Field history on Oct. 14 in a 2-1 win over A-10 rival Xavier.
Congrats On Win #175 At UMass
Head coach Sam Koch is in his 17th season at UMass and is the winningest coach in the program's 75-year history. His career win total in Amherst stands at 186, while his overall coaching win total is 244 games. Koch notched his 175th career win at UMass on Oct. 6 at Hartford - a 1-0 victory. Among active NCAA coaches, Koch is tied with Sasho Cirovski of Maryland for 27th in career wins. He is also just ahead of Elmar Bolowich of North Carolina and Bobby Clark of Notre Dame.
What A Difference Four Years Can Make
UMass' senior class has certainly made quite an impact on the program since their freshman season in 2004. In that time, UMass has transformed into one of the top defensive teams in the country. In 2004, UMass gave up 39 goals allowing 1.93 per game and had just one shutout. In 2005, that was trimmed down to 30 goals and 1.45 per game. In 2006, the Minutemen allowed just 19 goals and 0.96 per game after allowing just two goals in the first seven games of the season for the second-best start in school history. This year, UMass is at 19 goals and 0.77 per game.
Commonwealth Well Represented In NCAA Tournament
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was one of just four states to be represented by four-or-more schools in this season's NCAA Tournament. Massachusetts was represented by UMass, Boston College, Boston University and Harvard. Virginia and Illinois also had four teams, while California leads the nation with five schools.
UMass Becoming Quite The Dancer
The men's soccer team is the third team this fall to qualify for an NCAA Tournament appearance joining the field hockey and football teams. Nationally, UMass is in elite company as it is one of just seven schools to have three teams qualify for three of the first four fall NCAA Tournaments: Boston University, Duke, James Madison, UMass, UConn, Virginia, Wake Forest.
Over the last three seasons, UMass has sent six teams to NCAA Tournaments, men's soccer, field hockey, football, hockey, men's lacrosse, softball. In 2006, the men's lacrosse team and football team were both National Finalists.