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Leonard’s game-winner gets Wildcats back on track


DURHAM, N.H. – University of New Hampshire (2-3, 1-2) hosted UMBC (2-3, 1-2) at Wildcat Stadium this past Saturday. This rollercoaster ride of a game ended in overtime when fifth-year captain Rylee Leonard scored the game-winning goal to make it a final score of 14-13 in favor of the Wildcats.  

Head coach Sarah Albrecht explained how the team was able to turn it around after three straight losses. 

“We’ve definitely learned a lot through the last three games before UMBC and I think the team really pushed through some adversity,” said Albrecht. “We had some ups and downs throughout the game, and they had some kids who had stepped up to the challenge, but I was really proud of them.” 

For the first time since game one, UNH came out firing in the first half. The team opened up with six unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes of the game. 

Senior attacker Sabrina Grovom started the scoring off after receiving a pass from sophomore attacker Liv Dunn less than two minutes into the game. Junior midfielder Delaney Pratt followed her with a free-position goal just a minute later. Just moments after the score was extended to 3-0 by junior midfielder Abby Cranney. She received a pass from senior midfielder Elizabeth Blanding.  

The next three goals were started off by junior midfielder Julia Neyland, followed by one from Blanding before Neyland got her second of the day to make the score 6-0 with 20 minutes to go in the first half.  

The Retrievers answered heavily scoring five consecutive goals through the rest of the first half.  

The players contributing were sophomore midfielder Megan Halczuk in the twelfth minute. She was followed by sophomore attacker Claire Bockstie who scored three times in a row within a seven-minute stretch. Senior midfielder Courtney Renehan also got in on the action during the UMBC run.  

First-Year attacker Dymin Gerow lowered the deficit to just one goal with five minutes to play in the first half.  

Less than a minute later Neyland scored her third goal of the day to make the halftime score 7-5 in favor of the Wildcats.  

Junior goalie Issy Torres finished half strong with six saves off 11 shots on goal.  

Bockstie started UMBC’s half on the right foot with her fourth goal of the game less than a minute into the half. This cut the UMBC deficit to just one.  

The score held steady at 7-6 for another six minutes thanks to both senior goalie Lexi Roberts and Torres as they both saved a free-positioned shot throughout that stretch. 

Fifth-year midfielder Rylee Leonard scored her first goal of the day in the 37th minute to push the ‘Cats lead back to two scores.  

Before the Wildcats went on their three-goal stretch Renehan got her second assist of the day as she gave Gerow her second goal of the day.  

Blanding passed the ball to first-year midfielder Olivia O’Connor to help her score her first goal of the day in the 42nd minute. This was followed by an unassisted goal from both Neyland and Dunn. 

Both teams traded goals within moments of each other as senior attacker Oliva Docal and Neyland each scored unassisted goals which gave UNH a 12-8 lead. 

The Retrievers went on to score five consecutive goals to take the lead by one. The run started with an unassisted goal from Renehan who went on to assist Bockstie with 10 minutes to play. Bockstie scored another with help from junior attacker Rachel Ridgley about four minutes later.  

As time began to wind down, UMBC managed to take the lead after they scored twice within 30 seconds of each other. Gerow scored her third of the game in the 57th minute and Docal scored her second just moments later. 

The Wildcats had to make something happen as they were down by one point with a little more than two minutes remaining. Neyland scored her 50th career goal 2:18 to play which tied the score at 13 all.  

The clock had run out for regulation, so the game had shifted to overtime. Coach Albrecht expressed her thoughts about her team’s performance before the next draw control began.  

“They had been fighting all game, so they just needed to rely on what they had been doing all game when they had been able to score,” explained Albrecht. “I think in those situations you try and do something that is out of your wheelhouse and then you end up making more mistakes than you need to, so it was just about playing their game and putting the ball in the back of the net at the end.”  

For the first three-minute segment, neither team managed to score. The teams switched sides for the next three minutes.  

With just over a minute left in overtime, Leonard was given the opportunity of a free position shot. She scored the game-winner with a minute left on the clock giving the ‘Cats their second win of the season.  

“I definitely think there is a momentum for us and just to make sure that we are riding our wave and not hanging up our cleats after this,” Coach Albrecht said. “As long as we stay focused, step up to challenges, and competing throughout the game, I think we have good things coming for us.”  

The Wildcats travel to UMass Lowell Saturday to take on the River Hawks (2-4, 1-2) at noon.  

Photo courtesy of Vincent Dejana.

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