By SAM ROGERS
The Wildcats learned the hard way that not all days of celebration go as planned. The Wildcats took on the No. 18 Maine Black Bears at Memorial Field on Sunday, and dropped the ‘Senior Day’ game 3-2.
The Wildcats started the rivalry game strong, scoring just 53 seconds into the first half. Senior Meg Carroll had great control and drove the ball down the right side of the field before finding Katie Audino on the baseline. Audino fed senior captain Meg Flatley for her 8th goal of the season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Melissa Rize saved 7 shots in the contest, but with 11 minutes left in the half, Maine’s Sydney Veljacic netted her 11th goal of the season off of a rebound from a Maine corner. The teams carried the 1-1 tie into halftime.
At 48:42, Maine broke the tie when Cassidy Svetek drove the ball up the left side of the field and fired a pass to the front of the net. Danielle Aviani corralled the pass and beat Rize to make it 2-1 Black Bears.
Loose balls in the circle, sloppy play and unforced turnovers seemed to be the theme of the day for the Wildcats, who were unable to get the lead back.
“Unforced errors kill you when you’re trying to catch up, tie it up or get a winning goal,” UNH head coach Robin Balducci said after the game. “We were very undisciplined today.”
After a UNH timeout Flatley added her second goal of the game with 17:10 remaining on the clock. The timeout seemed to change the Wildcats, as Flatley’s goal was a result of their best ball work all day.
“The two goals were just a group effort,” Flatley said. “[The second goal] was a great ball sent in and I got a lucky touch.”
Maine answered with a strike by Marissa Shaw with 8:42 remaining. UNH, facing a one-goal deficit with time winding down, decided to pull Rize and add an extra player in hopes of netting the equalizer. Although they held the majority of possession time, the Wildcats were unable to convert. They finish their regular season with an 8-10 overall record and a 4-4 mark in America East play.
Although the Wildcats fell, the loss won’t affect their playoff position, as they are locked in as the No. 3-seed in the Eastern division of the new America East playoff format.
The Wildcats recognized their six seniors before the game. The six seniors on this year’s team were Lynne Lehman, Chandler Giese, Meg Flatley, Taylor Rideout, Meg Carroll, and Emma Compagna.
Both Coach Balducci and Meg Flatley commented on the special recognition the class received.
“It’s been an incredible experience, definitely something I would never have imagined,” said Flatley. “It’s been a great opportunity, a great group of girls, a great coaching staff. It’s really been an amazing four years.”
“They’re an outstanding group,” Coach Balducci said of her seniors. “There’s a core of them that have played every game they’ve been here. For kids to make that kind of impact and have a significant role for four full years is pretty impressive. They’ve been impact players from start to finish.”
While it was the final game on Memorial Field for the seniors, they’ll have another opportunity to put on the Wildcat colors. UNH will travel to Albany for the America East playoffs, which are operating under a new system with the inclusion of a Western division, comprised of Stanford, California, UC Davis and the University of the Pacific. Balducci is confident in her team’s chances to make a run in New York.
“We’ve been peaking at the right time,” Balducci said. “You hope for the team to be firing on all cylinders as you get to the tournament.”
New Hampshire will be pitted against the No. 2-seed in the West, Pacific, in the bracket that includes East No. 1-seed Albany and West No. 4-seed UC Davis. The Wildcats’ first game will take place on Friday, Nov. 6, and a win would allow the team to keep competing for the conference crown.
“It’s exciting, it’s definitely different with the California schools coming in,” Flatley added. “It will be a good change for us.”
Maine ruins Senior Day
By SAM ROGERS