MANCHESTER >> When the University of Vermont and University of Massachusetts-Amherst started their preseason opener on Wednesday in the first game of the Manchester college soccer series, the teams tried to feel each other out in the first few minutes.
By the end, UMass had won 2-1 and the more than 300 fans at Applejack Field got their money worth.
"It was a crowd that compares to what UVM gets for a regular home game," said Manchester town manager John O'Keefe, the brainchild behind the series. "It's a great level of soccer and the field has held up well."
UMass scored in the 25th minute on a corner kick to take a 1-0 lead, an advantage the Minutemen kept into halftime.
UVM, who plays in the America East, nearly tied the score with 17 minutes left when a Catamount fired the ball off the post, one of the team's best chances of the match. Then three minutes later, UVM freshman Julia Smith tied the game after a 1-on-1 chance with the Minutemen keeper.
UMass, out of the Atlantic-10, switched goalies and moved up the field searching for the winning score and got it with 5:30 left in regulation on a cross in front to freshman Emily Zwierzchowski.
"I thought it was a good college soccer game, especially early in preseason. I thought both [teams] did a good job, that's why we play preseason [games] like this," said UVM coach Kristi Lefebvre. "We were exciting and it's nice to have a good crowd to feed into that. No one likes to lose, but we got to see a lot from our groups, moving around some of the new players."
UMass coach Ed Matz said he was able to play all his players to see them in game action against another team.
"We missed a few good opportunities and they had way too many chances in the last 10 minutes," Matz said. "We subbed in a lot and we were able to get in a good run against a good opponent."
Both Lefebvre and Matz were interested in playing in another game in Manchester down the road.
"It's really nice and I'm happy we were invited down," Lefebvre said. "It's an incredible venue, players were chirping [on the sideline] saying how beautiful it is. It has a little bit of a European feel, we don't play on grass a ton, but it's good preparation when we do. It's a fun venue, we'd love to come back if they do it again."
"I love the Manchester area, I used to be at Green Mountain College, [my wife and I] have friends in the area, we still come here a lot," Matz said. "I was excited to come here and play this game, for all those reasons. It was more exciting for me then I think the team knew."
Matz also praised the town of Manchester and Applejack Field.
"I thought the hosts did a nice job of setting up the venue and the field is in perfect condition, especially for the drought conditions we've had across New England," Matz said. "Everything was first class and we had a good crowd, I'd love to try to continue with this in the future."
The next game in the series is August 28 when Castleton University men face off against MCLA, also at Applejack Field.