By SAM DONNELLY
The streak has finally come to an end. The UNH men’s soccer team suffered its first loss of the season on the road at Harvard, 1-0. The lone goal came in the 55th minute off the foot of Harvard midfielder Jake Freeman. The Wildcats outshot the Crimson 19-9, but Harvard put five of its shots on net, while the Wildcats mustered just four. That one shot made the difference.
“They were all disappointed about it,” head coach Marc Hubbard said. “We felt like we did enough to win but we had opportunities that we didn’t finish on.”
Senior midfielder Fazal Nabi led the Wildcats with two shots on goal and senior goalkeeper Ryan Carpenter tallied four saves. The loss drops the Wildcats to 7-1-2, while Harvard improves to 3-4-2 on the season.
The loss comes just one day after the Wildcats were ranked No. 25 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com. The Wildcats to that point boasted an .889 winning percentage, which was tied for fifth nationally with Stanford University. UNH was also just one of six teams in Division I who had yet to suffer a loss. In the poll released by the NSCAA, the Wildcats received 33 points and were placed 30th.
UNH leads all of America East in a plethora of statistical categories before Tuesday’s loss. The Wildcats are on top in points per game (5.67), scoring offense (2 goals per game), shots per game (15.22), and shots on goal per game (18). They also hold opponents to a conference low .74 goals per game. Despite Hubbard not being interested in the ranking aspect of things, there are some positives to being recognized on a national scale.
“It bodes well for the momentum we are trying to create,” Hubbard said. “We are trying to be nationally competitive and obviously this helps from a recruiting standpoint.”
But even being nationally ranked is not going to change the attitude of Hubbard and the team.
“It is important that we keep working hard and focus on what we need to do on the field,” Hubbard said. “Our goal wasn’t to be ranked, it is to win the America East Championship. We aren’t there yet.”
The Wildcats will return home Oct. 10 to resume conference play by hosting Stony Brook. It is clear that this season is not like last season, or even seasons before that. Through the first 10 games, the Wildcats have won more games than last season, when they won six. Through the first ten games of 2013 and 2014 combined, the Wildcats had eight wins. This year, the Wildcats have seven.
“People understand this team is in a different place this season,” Hubbard said. “We will be a hard team to beat.”
The Wildcats’ goal was to improve in all facets of the game. As for its first loss, the team was upset, but that’s a good thing, argues Hubbard.
“We cannot accept losing,” Hubbard said. “Games on the road always pose a challenge and we need to be more ready. This loss is for motivation and the guys will be ready to come out and play a great game this weekend.”
The Wildcats hope to get back to their winning ways and move forward into the always tough America East conference play. The team is filled with skill and is playing well, but there is plenty of season left, and Hubbard knows it.
“I’m happy with where we are at,” Hubbard said, “but we are still a ways away from where we want to be. We need to learn to put together a complete performance.”
UNH will have another chance to do that Saturday at Bremner field. The game will begin at 7 p.m.
First loss galvanizes Wildcats
By SAM DONNELLY