By ANDREW YOURELL
The UNH field hockey team spent the end of last week and the weekend travelling up and down the Eastern Seaboard, leaving Durham on Thursday for away games at William and Mary College and the University of Maryland. The team played well, but dropped both games, 3-2 and 5-2, respectively. The losses dropped UNH to 2-5 on the season.
“Friday’s game [William and Mary] was very disappointing,” head coach Robin Balducci said at the end of the road trip. “We controlled play early on without scoring and then gave up a break down goal.”
Both teams had 10 shots in the first contest, with five on goal for UNH and eight for William and Mary. The Tribe also held an advantage in penalty corners, 5-2, over the Wildcats.
UNH took over early, with a 5-0 shot advantage in the game’s opening minutes, with William and Mary’s offense unable to register a shot until the 23rd minute. UNH goalkeeper Melissa Rize stopped the shot, one of five saves on the night for the sophomore.
Five minutes after their first shot, the Tribe scored the game’s first goal. William and Mary’s Alayna Tomlinson fired an entry pass, and Maria Jose Pastor dove out to shoot the ball past Rize. The game went into halftime with the Tribe up 1-0.
Three minutes into the second half, William and Mary took a penalty corner and generated an offensive chance. A minute and a half later the Tribe doubled its lead to 2-0, but UNH took very little time to respond.
Senior captain Meg Flatley brought UNH back within one when she took a loose ball in the middle of the scoring circle and shot a laser past William and Mary goalkeeper Meredith Savage. The ‘Cats took the momentum and upped the pressure on the Tribe, until William and Mary burned a timeout in the 50th minute.
The third goal came off another penalty corner, 56:08 into the game, off the stick of Cammie Lloyd, who’d been denied earlier in the game by Rize on a good shot.
UNH again responded quickly, with Gianna Bensaia netting a goal at 57:59. The Wildcats stalled offensively after that, and failed to record another shot on goal.
“Didn’t really carry out our game plan tactically,” Balducci said. “[We] started playing very individual field hockey.”
Balducci was much happier with her team’s performance against the No. 10 ranked Maryland Terrapins, even if the end result was still a loss.
“We had some good pressure on Maryland considering the level of their team,” Balducci said. Her team recorded 14 shots, nine of them on goal.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, the Terps responded with 22 shots of their own, and a career-high 11 saves for Rize wasn’t enough to get the win.
Maryland struck first, utilizing one of nine penalty corners at 17:24, as the Terps’ Sarah Spink, who was the 2014 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, found the back of the net.
Spink later assisted on the second goal, after another penalty corner. The senior co-captain found Carrie Hanks, who put the Terps up 2-0 20:57 into the game. Another penalty corner led to another goal for Spink in the 26th minute.
The offensive flurry continued, and the Terps added their fourth goal at 31:57. After Rize turned away two shots, Anna Dessoye grabbed the rebound and beat Rize to give her team a 4-0 lead, which Maryland nearly took into the half.
But with under a minute in the first half, Meg Flatley recovered her own rebound and directed it past freshman goalkeeper Sarah Holliday, who had three saves in the first half before being replaced with sophomore Jill Genovese in the second half.
“Happy with how we came out at the start of the game,” Balducci said, “and the start of the second half today against Maryland.”
In the second half, the ‘Cats again came out hard, and were rewarded when senior Meg Carroll took a hard shot from five yards out to score in the 43rd minute. Ashley Mendonca was credited with an assist on the goal that brought the game to 4-2.
Later in the same minute, Flatley and the offense attacked again, though Genovese was able to turn away their advances. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, it was the last sustained offensive effort of the night.
At 47:19 Julie Duncan, a freshman Terrapin, scored to again extend the lead to three in Maryland’s favor. After that, it was a defensive struggle, as both teams struggled to get much started on offense. Rize shut the door on each of Maryland’s attempts en route to the career-high 11 saves.
“To generate 14 shots, with nine of them on goal and five penalty corners,” Balducci said, “we moved the ball well in building our attack.”
The losses, while tough, will only help the Wildcats when they begin playing conference opponents in a few weeks. But before the America East gauntlet starts, the Wildcats will play host to Providence College at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25. The next day, UMass Lowell visits at 2 p.m. for the Wildcats’ first conference matchup of 2015.