By SAM DONNELLY
Another week marked two more wins for the UNH men’s soccer team. The Wildcats posted consecutive 1-0 wins against UMass and Northeastern respectively. With those two wins, the team is off to its best start since 2008.
“We are starting to get the hang of winning,” head coach Marc Hubbard said. “It has been good for us to learn how to play with a lead.”
The team’s fifth win came on Saturday, Sept. 19. Senior midfielder A.J Albers gave the Wildcats their only goal against UMass in the 54th minute. The goal was assisted by fellow senior Fazal Nabi and was Albers’ second of the season. The Wildcats recorded 17 shots as a team while holding the Minutemen to nine. Senior goalkeeper Ryan Carpenter had four saves to preserve the Wildcats 1-0 win.
UNH then travelled to Boston to take on Northeastern on Tuesday on Sept. 22. Junior Riley Ellis notched his first career goal in the 47th minute off of a rebound. The goal was, once again, enough to hold off the Wildcats’ opponent and improve to 6-0-1. As they have most of the season, the Wildcats dominated the shot category, this time outshooting Northeastern 19 to seven.
“We are definitely creating a lot of opportunities,” Hubbard said. “We are making the opposing teams’ goalie play well to stay in the game which is always a positive thing.”
The Wildcats are now 6-0-1 heading into their most difficult game yet. They will travel to New York to take on 21st ranked Columbia University.
“[Columbia has] let up only one goal this entire season,” Hubbard said. “They have great veteran presence on the field. This game will be a good test for our guys.”
The teams the Wildcats have played have a combined win total of only 12 games, including two teams with zero wins in UMass and Northeastern. The Lions are 4-0-0, including a win over then 18th ranked Providence College.
“We are beating teams we should beat,” Hubbard said. “We are getting the hang of winning too. The guys will be excited to play.”
This will no doubt be a big test for the Wildcats and Hubbard makes it clear that the Lions have plenty of ways to beat their opponents.
“They are really organized defensively,” Hubbard said. “Offensively they play together and seem very comfortable with each other. They can score the ball in plenty of ways.”
Although the Wildcats have had a lot of positives early in the season, this is the first time they have been a part of a winning culture. Therein lies the biggest area of improvement for the Wildcats, according to Hubbard, who has had plenty of success in his coaching career at Southern New Hampshire University.
“We need to play to our potential every time we step out on the field,” Hubbard said. “It is about playing good soccer and winning. As a team we need to withstand the intensity of the season.”
The Wildcats will head on a road trip to Columbia, followed by games at UMass-Lowell, a conference opponent, and non-conference opponent Harvard. The ‘Cats return home Oct. 6 to take on Stony Brook. The game at Columbia will be on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.