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Wildcats rise to No. 11 after clinching playoff berth


DURHAM, N.H. – No. 12 University of New Hampshire (UNH) men’s soccer (5-0-1, 4-0-1) defeated a struggling UMass Lowell team (0-6-0, 0-4-0) by a score of 4-1 on Friday afternoon at Wildcat Stadium. With the dominating win the Wildcats punched their ticket to the four-team America East Championship to defend their status as America East Champions.  

The Wildcats have one remining game against a tough Vermont (4-0-1, 4-0-1) team which held UNH scoreless earlier in the season in a 0-0 tie. A win or another tie in the season finale will solidify UNH as the top seed. This means both America East Championship Semifinal games would have to come through Durham.  

UNH got on the board quickly just five minutes into the game when first-year midfielder Yannick Bright buried his first collegiate goal. Bright was able to poke the ball free from the Riverhawks defense and rip a shot to the top left corner from 25 yards out.  He went on to add an assist later in the game which helped earn him the title of America East Rookie of the Week.  

UNH kept the pressure up and again broke through the UML defense this time coming from one of their leaders, senior midfielder Linus Fallberg. Fallberg received a pass from sophomore midfielder Rory O’Driscoll and ripped a shot past the UML goalkeeper adding to the UNH lead.  

UMass Lowell showed some fight towards the end of the first half. UML’s Denis Petro had a great opportunity to bring the Riverhawks within reach but UNH graduate student Alejandro Robles charged out of his net making the save and keeping the UNH lead at two.  

With UML fighting back UNH decided to throw a counter punch of their own after some added pressure. UNH was able to force a corner kick in the 42nd minute and score on the opportunity. The ball sent in bounced around the box after a header from grad students Paul Mayer and Diego Toribio. The ball never touched the ground and eventually found the head of senior back Victor Menudier. Menudier increased UNH’s lead to three with a header past the sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Heihsel. UNH had a little fun with their celebration of the goal wishing Menudier’s brother a happy birthday while posing for a photo. 

UML didn’t go down without a fight, however, as just before halftime UMass Lowell’s Abdi Shariff-Hassan found sophomore forward Mario Mora Perez who potted UML’s first goal of the game. The goal gave some life to UML before halftime. This wasn’t enough to comeback in this one as UNH was too strong controlling the possession and flow of the game.  

Exiting halftime UNH kept the pressure going generating chances but not making anything of them until the 80th minute when Bright found Fallberg for his second goal of the game. He blasted the shot and it deflected off a UML defender and into the back of the net. With the 4-1 lead the ‘Cats cruised to the win.  

UNH dominated play all game and it showed on the shot totals with the ‘Cats tallying 14 compared to UML’s four. Seven of UNH’s 14 were on goal forcing Heihsel to make three saves compared to Robles’ one. UNH continues to love home cooking, outscoring opponents in Wildcat Stadium 12-3. Fallberg enjoyed a stellar day on the box score his first multi-goal game of his career netting his 2nd and 3rd goals on the season.  

UNH will travel to Vermont for their next game against the Catamounts. This should be a high-tension contest as the last game was very physical with multiple altercations after the whistle. Vermont will look to play spoiler and rob UNH of the No. 1 seed in the America East Championship.  

The Wildcats will travel west riding the high of being named the No. 11 team in the nation according to the United Soccer Coaches Poll. UNH tied their program’s best ranking ever a week ago when they were named No. 12 and the 2021 Wildcats now hold the best national ranking in program history in the final week before postseason play. 

Photo courtesy of China Wong.

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