By Sam Rabuck: Staff Writer
The UNH women’s soccer team played in Cowell Stadium’s first ever night game under the newly erected stadium lights Thursday night, but lost a nail-biter to the Harvard Crimson by a score of 1-0 in double overtime.
Although the Wildcats (2-6) weren’t able to score, head coach Steve Welham was pleased with the tenacity his team played with.
“I thought the girls played very hard tonight,” Welham said. “It was one of our better performances [especially] going against one of the top teams in the country.”
The Wildcats’ offense, facing a tough Harvard defense that has only allowed five goals this season, came out strong in the first half. Both UNH and Harvard took five shots each, but neither side had any legitimate scoring chances. The Wildcat defense, led by senior Hannah Blondin, did an excellent job all night of keeping the potent Harvard offense at bay.
The Wildcats nearly took the lead in the 58th minute of play when freshman Brooke Murphy had a supreme scoring chance, but pushed it just wide of the net.
UNH continued to apply offensive pressure when a series of clever passes from the midfield left senior Caroline Murray, who controlled the middle of the field all night, with a chance to take the lead in the 62nd minute. Murray put a good foot into the ball, but lifted it just over the crossbar, keeping Harvard alive.
Murray’s scrappy play has been an integral part of the Wildcats’ offense this season, despite still working for her first goal of the season.
“Caroline is a very technically dynamic, attacking-oriented player,” Welham said. “I think her confidence on the ball going 1-v-1 on the outside backs has been getting better and better every single game, and that was key for us [against Harvard] to get in behind that back line.”
Continuing to battle, the Wildcats took advantage of a Harvard turnover in the 80th minute as Murphy broke through the defensive line and ripped yet another shot just wide of the net.
“They were frustrating misses,” Murphy said. “Good spot, good timing, [we] just didn’t hit the back of the net today.”
Harvard came out strong during the first 10 minutes of “golden goal” overtime, nearly scoring on a header that wound up just over the crossbar. The Wildcats struggled to maintain possession, and Harvard set up several scoring chances. True to form, goalkeeper, Mimi Borkan, stood tall and made several impressive saves. The Wildcats’ were able to bend without breaking, and forced a second 10-minute overtime period.
Harvard came out strong in the second overtime period, quickly applying offensive pressure that led to a corner kick in the 82nd minute. The corner, taken by Harvard’s Meg Casscells, was set up perfectly for teammate, Brooke Dickens to head the ball into the top left corner of the net, giving Harvard the golden goal victory and improving their record to 4-2.
“We played one of the best teams in the country [tonight], and took them to double overtime,” Welham said. “It wasn’t like we sat back. We were very proactive in our approach, and we had multiple chances to score. We knew it, and I think Harvard knew it that they snuck out with one tonight.”
The Wildcats look to turn things around as they travel to New Haven, Conn. to face off against Yale (4-1) at Reese Stadium on Sunday at 1 pm.