By Sam Donnelly, Staff writer
The first four games of the UNH men’s soccer season have been anything but consistent. The team opened the season with two straight loses to Northeastern and Bryant by scores of 1-0 and 2-0 respectively. The Wildcats traveled to New York this weekend and turned their early woes into positives by beating St. Peters and Fairfield 1-0.
“It took us a while to find our identity,” head coach Rob Thompson said. “We outworked the other teams and were able to frustrate them into making mistakes, which led to chances for us.”
In the first game against St. Peters it took until overtime for sophomore Christopher Wingate to score off an assist from senior David Schlatter. In the second game against Fairfield, Shlatter scored in the 65th minute after finishing a corner that was taken by senior Connor Pauley.
“I was happy with the weekend we had,” Thompson said. “We grinded out two wins and committed ourselves to defending.”
Although the season is young, the Wildcats are already facing challenges. This offseason in the spring, fifth year senior Steve Palumbo tore his ACL in the spring and is thought by both the coaching staff and doctors to be out for the entire season. But the injuries don’t stop there. Incoming freshman Tanner Tomasi will be sidelined with a torn labrum. Thompson believed that Tomasi, if healthy, would have seen significant time and been a strong contributor to the Wildcat team.
“It’s important to remember that it’s a long season,” Thompson said. “We have to overcome these injuries and become a team. We will miss those guys, but it means other guys have a chance to step up and play.”
After a brief break the Wildcats will head to Colorado for a two-game road trip in which they will play both Air Force and Denver. Thompson is both happy for the trip but also cautious of the new challenges, the altitude in particular.
The Wildcats style of play is an aggressive, attacking type where the goal is to outwork and frustrate the opposing team. This style requires plenty of movement and constant intensity. Both of those characteristics will be hard to maintain with the altitude, but Thompson said the style will not change.
“Everyone is going to have to play their part,” Thompson said. “We will play more guys in order to play our game, but it’s just hard harder to play up there.”
This road trip to Colorado is also a chance for this young team to mesh even further. Each day the team will be around each other and each other only. Thompson sees these road trips as both beneficial and hard.
“I like being on the road,” Thompson said. “The kids escape the distractions that are on campus. Getting homework done and being away from family is hard, but it is always great for the team dynamic.”
The Wildcats return home Friday, Sept. 19 to play Hofstra at 7 p.m. on Bremner Field.