By DYLAN HAND
When it takes three games for the star goalkeeper to let in her first goal, the team should be off to a great start, provided the offense can beat the opposing goalie just once a game. The women’s soccer team was able to get two goals in those first three games, but both tallies came in the same contest. UNH’s stellar defensive start was overshadowed by a few missed shots, a few posts, and a few timely saves. Instead of several wins, UNH earned two 0-0 ties before eking out their first win, against Holy Cross on Aug. 27.
Junior goalkeeper Mimi Borkan has picked up right where she left off after a stellar sophomore season that included nine shutouts. The tri-captain has yet to let in a goal at home this season. Head coach Steve Welham explained how her success comes not only from her shot-stopping skills, but from being a natural leader.
“Her presence is huge for her and for us. She has great leadership capabilities and has the understanding that her team has so much confidence in her back there,” said Welham.
Expectations were high for the team heading into the season after earning the top spot in the America East Preseason Poll, though Borkan and her teammates embraced the spotlight and the challenge.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good. It’s not pressure that’s weighing us down, I think it’s pressure that we want to be back in that same place. We know we have that target on our back because every team is going to want to beat us this year and that’s just the way it is when you win,” said Borkan, noting that this is the first women’s soccer team to go for a title defense.
Six games into the season, the Wildcats have a 2-1-3 record. Compared to last year’s 2-4-0 record through six, this team is already in better position in the standings to defend its conference title. Not only are the numbers better, but they have improved against teams who won the matchups last season thanks to a tie with UMass and a win over Holy Cross. Coach Welham believes that those ties can be positive.
“With ties, it’s not a bad thing. It’s not what you want, obviously you want to win every game but in terms of the process and what we did last year, it’s definitely an improvement.”
With the defense nearly airtight, the Wildcats needed some help from the front end. This was not a tall order with the return of sophomore forward Brooke Murphy, who had 11 of the team’s 16 goals last season. It was only a matter of time until the floodgates opened. Murphy had both goals in the 2-0 win over Holy Cross for the team’s first win of the season.
Last weekend, the Wildcats traveled to Burlington, Vt., for the TD Bank Classic. The offense found some consistent scoring with a 2-1 win over Quinnipiac on Friday, followed by a 1-1 tie with Kent State in double overtime on Sunday. It was the first time in this short season that the Wildcat offense scored in back-to-back games. Murphy scored in each game, adding her third and fourth goals of the year. According to Murphy, the scoring did not come from a new strategy, but instead was due to the team simply executing.
“We knew that we needed to start taking more shots and take the chances because that’s how you’re going to score.”
The team looks to keep the offense and defense clicking together this week when they host a pair of games at Bremner Field against Temple University on Friday at 7 p.m. and Lafayette College on Sunday at 2 p.m.