By ANDREW YOURELL
Last year, the Wildcats were the Cinderella story of the America East conference as they clinched the school’s first-ever conference title.
This year, the Wildcats came out with a target on their backs, and the Maine Black Bears took their shot in the first round of the playoffs. Maine pulled out a win, 4-3 in penalty kicks after the regulation and overtime periods ended 1-1.
“We played very well on the night and were unfortunate that it didn’t go our way,” UNH head coach Steve Welham said. “We felt we could have made a deep run again.”
The Wildcats certainly seemed to have outplayed the Black Bears on paper, tallying the first goal and a 22-10 shot advantage. Welham said that he believed his team had some of the more dangerous scoring opportunities during regulation and overtime, as both Brooke Murphy and Caroline Murray launched shots that hit the crossbar. Murphy and freshman Gabby Dorsey also had chances that just missed late in regulation and in the second overtime.
UNH’s lone goal came off the foot of sophomore Nikki Sloan, whose first half goal was the first of her career. Maine responded in the 63rd minute, when America East Rookie of the Year Viven Beil crossed the ball in front of the net. UNH goaltender Mimi Borkan knocked the ball away, but Ashley Robinson headed the rebound in.
The overtime periods saw the Wildcats continue to apply pressure, but bad luck kept the team from taking advantage of the opportunities. Murphy’s shot off the crossbar came in the 91st minute, but the game ended in a tie. Because of the playoff stakes, the teams competed in penalty kicks to decide the winner.
Murphy, the recently named America East Striker of the Year, Dorsey, an America East All-Rookie selection, and Kellie McGoldrick each buried their opportunities for the Wildcats. Maine’s Claudia Dupe-Trempe stopped Murray, the America East Midfielder of the Year, and senior Kirsten O’Neil.
Addie Labonte, Biel, Charlene Achille and Noelle Leon-Palmer netted their opportunities for the Black Bears, although Borkan did stop Jenna Soucy’s attempt.
“It’s always excitement or disappointment after a penalty kicks and it makes for great drama,” Welham said. “Win or lose there must be a winner.”
The Wildcats were the beneficiaries of two games decided by penalty kicks in last year’s playoffs, taking wins against Binghamton in the opening round and against UMBC in the semifinals.
This year the Wildcats pulled the short straw, and Welham thinks they would have benefitted from continuing sudden-death play, considering their aggressive approach to the game.
“If we had played longer I think we go on and win the game,” he said. “But that is the game and PKs are a part of it. It breaks the game down to its simplest form: the shooter and the keeper, and the basic element of the game, you against me.”
‘Cats fall prey to Black Bears
By ANDREW YOURELL