A Season for the Ages 2016 men's soccer year in review

The 2016 UMass Lowell men’s soccer team began the season selected eighth in the America East Coaches’ Preseason Poll, following an 8-9-1 (2-4-1) finish in 2015. The squad was aimed to turn the non-believers into believers, and fight for a chance to play for the one thing that matters for a team in the fourth and final season of the Division I transition: a regular season championship.

Behind blistering starts to the campaign from senior Wuilito Fernandes (Praia, Cape Verde) and redshirt-freshman Ivan Abramovic (Zagreb, Croatia), the River Hawks jumped out to a 6-0-0 start, before suffering a 1-1 draw to Dartmouth on Sept. 17

The 6-0-1 start was the second best mark through seven games in program history, and for the first time in the Division I era the River Hawks found themselves in the NSCAA Top 25 polls on September 19 at No 24. The week prior to entering the polls, UMass Lowell was already atop the NSCAA East Region rankings.

With America East play beginning the October 1, the team hosted the Binghamton Bearcats and played to a 1-1 draw after the visitors knotted the score with 37 seconds left in regulation.
On Oct. 4, UMass Lowell became one of three remaining undefeated men’s soccer teams in the nation, and moved up five spots in the national RPI to the 20th spot.

With a 3-0-1 record in conference play, the River Hawks headed up to Durham, N.H. to face the New Hampshire Wildcats. After the first attempt to play was halted by lightning, the hosts knocked off UMass Lowell, 2-1, on Oct 25.

The loss backed the program into a two-way tie atop the conference standings with UAlbany as the teams readied for their matchup on Oct. 29. With each team controlling their own destiny, Fernandes netted the lone goal in the 23rd minute for the 1-0 win against the Great Danes.

With that win under their belts, the the situation was easy for UMass Lowell heading into the season finale and Senior Night game against the Hartford Hawks; win and the regular season title is coming to Lowell.

The River Hawks took a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute on Ivan Blaskic's (Zagreb, Croatia) first career goal.

Fernandes scored his 11th goal of the season to double the advantage, 2-0, in the 66th minute.

The River Hawks held on in the final minutes for a 2-1 victory, capturing the first America East Regular Season Championship in school and program history.

When the America East Awards and All-Conference Teams were announced, the River Hawks took home five of the six major awards and had seven individuals honored. Christian Figueroa and his staff took home the Coaching Staff of the Year Award, Fernandes and Abramovic were named the Striker and Rookie of the Year, respectively, while Eric Martin (Danvers, Mass.) earned Defender of the Year honors and Austin Kroll (Baltimore, Md.) was named Goalkeeper of the Year.

America East All-Conference Teams

First Team: Wuilito Fernandes, Eric Martin, Austin Kroll, Jakov Basic

Second Team: Ivan Abramovic, Dario Jovanovski

All-Rookie Team: Joe Kellett, Dario Jovanovski

All-Academic Team: Austin Kroll

The awards continued as Fernandes was named a semifinalist for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, the most coveted individual award in NCAA DI Soccer.

Figueroa and his assistants took home the NSCAA DI East Region Coaching Staff of the Year, and he was named the ECAC Coach of the Year.

Abramovic earned the ECAC Rookie of the Year honors, as well as one of five River Hawks to be named to NSCAA All-East Region Teams.

NSCAA First Team: Wuilito Fernandes, Austin Kroll, Jakov Basic

NSCAA Second Team: Ivan Abramovic

NSCAA Third Team: Eric Martin

The River Hawks reached the No. 3 and No. 11 spots in the final regular season RPI and NSCAA Top 25 poll, respectively. The 13 wins tied the second most all-time in a single season, and the .875 win percentage is the highest in program history.

Figueroa graduates four players from this year's squad: Wuilito Fernandes, Eric Martin, Carlos Ruiz and Mauricio Escobar. These four men will leave UMass Lowell as the first class to play all four years at the Division I level, and have all been leaders on and off the field.

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UMass Lowell Athletics

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