The UNH women’s soccer team (8-6, 4-2) was able to best their age-old rival UMaine (5-7-1, 1-5-1) last Thursday night by a score of 2-0.
Senior forward Ally Reynolds was the lone goal-scorer in the contest, as she posted the two goals of the game that gave UNH their seventh win of the season.
The Wildcats started the game off fast and on the attack. In just the ninth minute of the game, Reynolds was able to capitalize off a Black Bear turnover on the left side of the field. She collected the ball and made a move down the sideline before swiftly depositing a goal inside the near post with her left foot.
After UNH’s dominating first 10 minutes, UMaine tried to strike back with a chance of their own. Sophomore goalkeeper Cat Sheppard was able to fend off the first Black Bear shot that came from the top of the 18-yard box, and the rebound shot went wide of the net.
This UMaine chance was the last quality scoring opportunity of the first half, as the wind took the game by storm. Both teams tried to make entry passes into the opposing teams’ final third of the field, but the breeze continually pushed the ball toward each goalkeeper. UNH head coach Steve Welham admitted that the wind forced his team to adapt.
“We had to keep the ball on the ground for the most part. We were going into wind first half, so that forced us to make shorter and tighter passes. With wind like that, the biggest key is finding feet. There was no getting around it, so we played the match and did what we wanted to do. This was a huge win for us and kind of catapulted us in the standings,” Welham said.
UNH’s second goal of the game came in the 84th minute of the contest when junior midfielder Sofia Borea made a centering pass to Reynolds who one-timed a shot from the top of the 18-yard box to the back of the middle of the net. Reynolds now leads the team in goals (6) and points (15).
The Black Bears made a final push in the closing minutes of the match. They were able to methodically maneuver their way up the field and generate a shot from 20 yards out. The strike was a strong one, but Sheppard was able to make the leaping stop to seal the game.
Welham exuded praise towards his team after the hard-fought game.
“It was definitely a big win. Every year it’s a tough, physical game. We always have to be physical and direct against them. They try to make our lives uncomfortable and playing through pressure and being mentally tough are things that we had to do,” Welham said.
This resounding win was a springboard of confidence for UNH’s 1-0 win over the Hartford Hawks (7-6-1, 4-2) this past Sunday.
Possession was dominated by Hartford for much of the match, but UNH was the team to get on the board first. In the 14th minute, Hartford committed a penalty in the 18-yard box which resulted in a Wildcat penalty shot. Reynolds was able to strut her way to the penalty kick line and buried a shot in the left side of the net, giving her team the 1-0 lead.
The rest of the first half was relatively stagnant except for late in the half when the Hawks sent a through ball past the UNH defenders, which created a one-on-one with Sheppard. Yet, she was able to make a lunging save with her leg. The ensuing corner kick was pushed out by UNH defense, denying Hartford once again.
In the 62nd minute, Reynolds was persistent in trying to get her second goal of the game, but her multiple shots were blocked by the Hawks backline. Her final chance in the sequence was forceful and on target, but Hartford junior goalkeeper Maia Perez was able to get a piece of the ball to redirect it over the net.
Later in the half, Hartford had arguable their best chance in the game. Senior forward Kaila Lozada had a clear shot on Sheppard from eight yards out, but Sheppard was able to fend the ball off for the UNH defense to clear it.
The Wildcats were able to hold on for the final 15 minutes of the second half, and with the win, UNH has made the America East tournament every year that Welham has been the head coach (six seasons).
Most of the major statistical categories went in Hartford’s favor in the match, but Welham believes those can be misleading at times.
“Possession numbers can kind of be overrated. Obviously, you have to recognize where the possession is on the field, and the position of the ball is important. Also, the amount of chances is much different than the quality of those chances. They had more shots, but we had an equal amount of big chances. Cat Sheppard had big game in goal, taking crosses out of the air. Our defensive line had a great game as well and they blocked a couple of shots,” Welham said.
This win moved the ‘Cats to third in the America East conference. They now have 12 conference points with two regular season games to go. With the limited amount of time left in the season, Welham knows that his team needs to work on certain aspects of their game before the America East tournament.
“We have to work on all the little things. There aren’t big margins between us and the teams we play. Everyone is really good. It’s going to come down to if we can get goals, if we can shut them out, and finishing and combining in the final third of the field,” Welham said.
UNH will travel to Stony Brook to face the Seawolves (11-5, 5-1) next Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. in Lavalle Stadium.