THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2011
Men’s soccer versus UMass on Sunday moved to 8 p.m.
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The JU men’s soccer team has already proved it can take the lead against a nationally ranked opponent. Now the Dolphins will be looking to show it can finish strong against another challenging non-conference foe when it faces UMass at the Ashley Sports Complex on Sunday at 8 p.m.

Kickoff time was originally one hour earlier but has been changed. Fans who cannot make it out can watch live through ASun.Tv and by following the free live stats at JUDolphins.com.

The Dolphins (0-1) started strong against UCF in the season opener last Sunday before losing, 2-1. Senior Tyler Williams gave JU a first-half lead against a Knights squad that was ranked No. 19 by the NSCAA. Williams posted five of the Dolphins nine total shots to lead the way.

JU will face another challenging foe in Atlantic 10-member UMass. The Minutemen reached the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 08 and has not posted a losing season in six years. The Dolphins, who have never faced UMass in head coach Mike Johnson’s tenure, will take on a Minutemen squad that dropped its season opener, 3-0, to Delaware. UMass will oppose UCF in Orlando, Fla. on Friday before coming to Jacksonville.

“They have a great history and I know the team will be well-coached and well-disciplined,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to do a good job of managing the game and our kids will need to play with a lot of intensity and focus.”

The Minutemen struggled to find answers offensively against Delaware, mustering just seven shots (including only one-shot-on goal). JU will turn to a young backline to try and extend that scoring slump. The Dolphins started four freshmen versus the Knights with Johnson entrusting Jack McIver, Ashton Pett and Henrik Synnes to curtail a high-powered UCF attack.

The trio contributed to a good team effort that held UCF to just three shots on goal. McIver started on the left-back, Pett fortified the right side and Synnes manned the center-back position. Pett held UCF’s Nik Robson, who Johnson cited as one of Conference USA’s top players, without a shot.

“It’s not a surprise that so many freshmen are starting because they played so well in the preseason and in training,” Johnson said. “In the recruiting process, we felt they would be immediate-impact players.

“To start three new players on the backline against a top-20 team in the country, I thought they handled themselves extremely well. I think those guys are only going to get better and the future of our team is in good hands.”

UMass returns top scorer Bryant Craft. The senior forward scored seven goals and tallied two assists in starting all 18 games in 2010. The Minutemen were competitive in every game last season, finishing 5-5-8. Four of those five losses came by a single goal. With eight ties, UMass is used to playing long games, logging 18 overtime periods last fall.

But UMass will be entering a warmer climate where the Dolphins hope conditioning won’t favor a team used to playing beyond 90 minutes. JU brings back six of its top-10 scorers from the previous season. Co-captains Predrag Ivanovic and Davide Faga are among the returners who will be expected to lead the midfielders.

-- By Brian Bohl