The UNH field hockey team not only dealt with pouring rain on Sunday, but also the feeling of losing two close games this weekend to conference rivals UMass Lowell and the University of Maine.
On Friday, the Wildcats fought hard in Lowell, Massachusetts and even struck first blood after Lindsey Nerbonne collected her fifth goal of the year, but faltered down the stretch.
The Riverhawks were able to answer seven minutes after Nerbonne’s tally, and then take the lead shortly after. Two goals in the first period proved to be the difference as the Riverhawks prevailed victorious 2-1. Again, the Wildcats won the shot category, but the finishing stuggles has continued to be the underlying theme of the 2016-17 campaign.
“We were really disappointed with Friday’s loss, it was a loss that really hit home, but maybe it hit a switch,” head coach Robin Balducci said.
The Wildcats attempted to flip the switch with intense play down the stretch, but the result stayed the same as the Wildcats fell to the Black Bears in the “All ‘Cats Wear Pink” game 3-2 in overtime on Sunday.
Down 2-0 late in the first while creating havoc defensively to shut down the Black Bear offense, the team scored with only 17 seconds remaining in the half. Jessica Schmidt retrieved Gianna Bensaia’s ball set up by Aggie Sutherland and fired the direct corner shot past goaltender Emily Corbett. It was 2-1 going into the halftime intermission.
In the beginning of the second half, the Wildcats were doing everything to create opportunities, but could not find the back of the net. Outshooting the Black Bears 18 to 12, the Wildcats passed efficiently and created numerous penalty corner opportunities. With under two minutes left in the second half, the ‘Cats found their opening. Schmidt found the back of the net once again coming off a corner set up by Katie Audino and Bensaia. The goal tied the game for the Wildcats late in regulation.
“I think overall our second half was amazing. We all worked very hard and that goal was huge creating a momentum shift and we knew we were still in it fighting,” Schmidt said
As overtime began, the Wildcats looked to have communication issues when choosing a side to begin overtime play. It proved to be unfortunate as the Black Bears answered two minutes in with Casey Crowley’s seventh goal of the season.
“There was miscommunication in which direction we chose and it was unfortunate, but walking away from the game I have to be excited,” Balducci said. “I told the girls, if you play next week against Albany and these guys again with the same intensity, good things will come,” she said.
The Wildcats struggled to find their game in the early stages of the season, but despite what the results may tell you, Balducci saw something different that was not entirely present in the early games: intensity and a team identity.
“Today we played with a grit, an energy fully. We have been sustaining pressure and getting stats, but we had a different mentality today and we have been looking for that all season,” Balducci said.
The Wildcats will continue to chip away at the season when they travel down to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to take on the Boston College Eagles on Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. and then to upstate New York to take on the University at Albany Great Danes Sunday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.