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The Mass Media

Men’s soccer defeats undefeated team in LEC Championship

Darryl Konicki
The UMass Boston men’s soccer team celebrates their victory. Photo by Darryl Konicki / UMass Boston Athletics

Welcome to UMass Boston, home of the three time—check that—four time Little East Conference champion men’s soccer team, can you dig that?! Men’s soccer went on the road to take on the Western Connecticut State Colonials and made the campus their home after winning the Little East Conference Championship in Danbury, outscoring them on penalty kicks, 4–2.

The win against Western Connecticut helped the UMass Boston Beacons reclaim the LEC championship for the fourth time, in a game that saw the 20–0–1 Colonials become 20–0–2. The extra number in the tie column was enough to see a championship win, let alone a championship win alongside an undefeated season, slip through their fingertips.

The Beacons stepped up against the Colonials, especially on the defensive end of the spectrum, not to mention the immaculately remarkable goaltending by UMass Boston’s Qasim El-Ashkar. The junior racked up two huge saves on Western Connecticut and maintained the shutout going into the penalty kicks (1). Both he and the Beacon offense showed out and flaunted the ice in their veins for a massive win that put El-Ashkar and company to the test.

After three rounds of the shootout, the Beacons were facing a 2–1 hole and a potential defeat that would crown Western Connecticut as the champs. Then up came freshman forward Ryan Luma in round three, and it was his opportunity to turn the tables, which he took in stride. Luma showed off his clutch gene for the sake of keeping the team in the game by scoring, tying the amount of goals scored at two after defender Diego Gisholt did the same and scored the first goal for UMass Boston in the previous round (2).

Going into the fourth round of the shootout, history repeated itself when another freshman forward pulled through for the Beacons, as Luan Cruz gave UMass Boston a 3–2 lead, and El-Ashkar kept the lead at bay. The final round needed either a Beacon goal or a save by El-Ashkar to win the game. The game was never put into El-Ashkar’s hands because junior midfielder Maan Albehacy beat Western Connecticut goaltender Matthew Silva to seal the victory for the Beacons (2).

The win was obviously a very special one for the Beacons, not only because they will be going back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years (3), but also because it truly showed how resilient they are in tough situations and during tough stretches of the season. Since their 7–1 blowout win over UMass Dartmouth, men’s soccer fell into a bit of a slump and they went 1–2–1 over their final four games, including a 2–1 loss to Western Connecticut in Danbury on Oct. 22 (4).

Luckily, because of their success and hard work throughout the regular season, the team rightfully earned a first round bye after achieving the number two seed, and faced Eastern Connecticut State in the LEC semifinals. The game was a back and forth barnburner that showcased how one can never count the team out because seven of the eleven starters of the game for the Beacons played all 110 minutes. On top of that, the team never gave up after playing with a 3–2 deficit. Junior forward, Josh DeAlmeida, scored not one, but two goals in overtime, with his second goal coming with less than five minutes to go in the match, propelling UMass Boston to victory (5).

DeAlmeida was one of the four players who deservingly earned awards for his exceptional play, and performances like these accurately depict why he, alongside Annilson DePina, Diego Gisholt and Christian Suvak took home the hardware. DePina took home All-LEC First Team honors, while DeAlmeida, Gisholt and Suvak all made the second team. All players contributed massively to the Beacon’s success. DeAlmeida lead the team with nine goals, Gisholt kept the defense in check with a 1.11 goals against average, while netting two goals of his own. Suvak had two assists and played over 1,300 minutes for the team. DePina netted three goals, including the goal that clinched the first round bye for the Beacons (6).

The Beacons had all the talent in the world, and they definitely showed that during the game in Danbury. Defeating Western Connecticut is no easy task, just ask all the teams that accounted for the Colonials’ 20 wins on the season. The bottom line is that men’s soccer went into each game with fearlessness and came out of the LEC as underdogs. They had a potent strike with a game plan that revolved around relentless attack.

The players should be satisfied with how their season has gone after winning the LEC conference.  A trip to the NCAA tournament is an accomplishment that, when looking back on the season men’s soccer had, is not something that should’ve been seen as far fetched. Though some may consider men’s soccer to be in the midst of a Cinderella story, frankly, they’ve taken it in stride. With the circumstances they’ve had and the late season hardships they’ve endured, the cleats fit, and they scored a whole lot of goals and brought home a championship above all else. Congratulations to men’s soccer on winning the LEC championship!

  1. Men’s Soccer vs WestConn on 11/5/2022 – Box Score – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

  2. Back on Top! Men’s Soccer Downs Unbeaten WestConn, Wins Fourth LEC Championship – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

  3. UMass Boston Men’s Soccer Year-by-Year – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

  4. 2022 Men’s Soccer Schedule – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

  5. Thriller on the Harbor! Men’s Soccer Advances to LEC Championship Match After Overtime Win Versus Eastern Connecticut – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

  6. Men’s Soccer Lands Four All-LEC Honors – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)

About the Contributor
Nick Collins, Sports Editor