The UNH women’s soccer team (5-4) started off conference play with a bang Sunday afternoon with a convincing 2-0 victory over the hosting UMBC Retrievers (1-6).
The heat would prove to be an obstacle for both squads, as the thermometer surpassed 90 degrees for the majority of the match. UNH head coach Steve Welham acknowledged the taxing temperatures after the game.
“The women did a great job in the really difficult conditions. It was over 90 degrees and we haven’t seen that heat since preseason…we were fine with it because we know we have a deep bench,” Welham said.
The Retrievers really struggled out of the gate, as it only took the Wildcats 10 minutes to get into their offensive flow, something that they have been struggling to do as of late.
In that 10th minute, UNH was able to force a free kick. Senior defender Megan Rumbold was the one to step up and take the swing, but her left side upper-90 scoring try was spoiled by sprawling UMBC junior goalkeeper Jade Wilkins, as she made a spectacular diving save.
Wilkins’ work was not done, though. The ‘Cats offensive push continued 30 seconds later with a corner kick off the foot of first-year midfielder/forward Whitney Wiley. Her ball perfectly crevassed itself in between two UMBC defenders and landed at the legs of senior forward Ally Reynolds. She proceeded to make the finish look easy and the Wildcats went up 1-0 with 80 minutes still to play in the match.
Reynolds now holds the most points on the team with nine, matching her 2018 total, which also led the team. She has been the main scoring option for the ‘Cats since transferring from URI two years ago, and coach Welham has seen great improvement in his senior forward.
“Ally has done a really great job acclimating herself to our team…her biggest improvement has been the ability to take players one on one. She’s been able to improve her left foot as well. She has scored a goal with her head (this season) and that’s awesome. She’s a goal scorer, she just wants to score goals and that’s one of the best attitudes you can have,” Welham said.
It wasn’t until the 27th minute that the Retrievers started to show life, as they were able to squeeze a low cross into the UNH 18-yard box, and senior goalkeeper Cat Sheppard needed to dive and punch the ball to get it to a safe location, and then had to sprint back to her goal, where she saved a UMBC rebound shot.
Senior forward/midfielder Kaylan Williams was able to get in on the Wildcat action in the 29th minute when she made a quick side step to create space around a Retriever defender and somehow curl a strike into the bottom left third of the net. This individual masterpiece put UNH up 2-0, a score that would stay true until the final buzzer.
UMBC had their final push at the start of the second half, which resulted in sophomore midfielder Danielle Fuentes having a point-blank shot attempt, but she was robbed by a diving Sheppard.
UNH now has four shutouts on the season, as Sheppard completed her second straight with her stellar performance on Sunday. She now has three of the four, as her defense has given her great support so far.
This is now the sixth straight year that UNH has started off with a 1-0 record in conference play, all of them coming under coach Welham. In these six games they have allowed only one goal, and that came against Binghamton in 2017.
With UNH now starting off 1-0 in the America East conference, they hope to improve upon their record when they welcome Binghamton University to Wildcat stadium this Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.