The UNH women’s soccer team (8-7, 4-3) came up short against the daunting Stony Brook Seawolves (12-5, 6-1) this past Sunday in their penultimate game of the 2019 season.
The four-hour match was abruptly stopped mid-way through the first half and an abundance of rain was the culprit. Three of the four total hours that made up the match came in the first half, and UNH could not keep up as they took a 2-0 loss.
Once again, Wildcat star player and senior forward Ally Reynolds led the offensive charge for her squad. In just the sixth minute of the match, she managed to maneuver herself and the ball to the top of the Stony Brook 18-yard box where she fired a shot off the crossbar and out of the offensive zone.
After the opening surge from Reynolds, the Seawolves started to dominate the majority of the play. They recorded three shots on goal before the 20th minute, and the last of which was headed for the back of the lower left side of the UNH net, but sophomore goalkeeper Cat Sheppard was able to get just enough of her finger on it to deflect it off its trajectory.
It was just after this point that play was stopped due to torrential downpour and pooling of water on the turf field. After over two hours of the field draining, the game was able to resume, and it took a little while for UNH to get in a rhythm again according to head coach Steve Welham.
“I think we came out very well and we opened on our front foot. Unfortunately, on our first chance in the opening couple minutes the ball bounced down and out off the crossbar and not down and in. We were certainly flying for a while, and both teams had decent chances, but the (delay) definitely hurt our momentum, no question. When we came back out, we did not have as much intensity as we wanted…we ended up turning it around in the last 20 minutes. We had a couple near makes, two crossbars, and we felt like we played well enough to get a couple of goals and maybe even a point,” Welham said.
In the 36th minute, Reynolds made another deep push into Stony Brook territory where she made a cross towards Stony Brook sophomore goalkeeper Sofia Manner. The lofted ball was able to pull Manner off her line, leaving the goal open, but the ‘Cats were unable to get off a clear shot. This failed attempt was the last chance for either team before the end of the first half. The unlucky nature of this chance encapsulates much of the Wildcat offense thus far in the season, and Welham hopes that this reality will turn around in their favor at some point.
“You have to look at the whole picture for sure. We will hopefully peak at the right time as the postseason beckons. We hope our work pans out, and we hope things even out in terms of luck,” Welham said.
While the first half was fairly competitive for both sides, the second was a different story. The Seawolves took over the pace and possession of the match, and in the 57th minute, Stony Brook was finally able to capitalize on a free kick from just under 30 yards out. The ball deflected off a Seawolf defender’s shin and into the left side of the net to give them a 1-0 lead.
Reynolds was able to generate some resistance to the Stony Brook attack, but her efforts were not enough to prevent a goal from Stony Brook junior forward Rachel Florenz. In an attempt to clear the ball, the UNH defense had their ball blocked by the opposition and it was redirected to the feet of Florenz, who sent a perfectly placed shot to the back of the goal to make it a 2-0 game.
Desperation seemed to come over the Wildcats in the last 10 minutes of the match as they started to transition to a 3-back formation, which allowed UNH to put more pressure on the Seawolves defense.
Due to the added pressure, the ‘Cats were able to force three corner kicks in a two-minute stretch from the 81st minute to the 83rd. In the last minute of that span, junior midfielder Sophia Borea was able to get a clean shot on net, but her attempt was corralled by Manner and punted out of danger.
UNH made a final attempt to get on the board, but they were unsuccessful and Stony Brook was able to clinch the 2-0 victory. The inconsistency for the ‘Cats in 2019 has been an issue as they are now 3-5 after a win, and they have struggled to string good matches together.
The Wildcats will continue play on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium where they will play their last game of the regular season against UMass Lowell (4-9-2, 3-3-1). Welham and the Wildcats are treating this final game as a precursor to the postseason.
“We view it as a playoff game, and my staff and I are getting them (players) ready for a must win game. I’ve been telling them there are still points at stake, and we can get as high at 3 in the standings. This will allow us to get a home playoff game and we have a veteran team, so they know that. They know what it’s like to get deep in the playoffs, so we hope their experience will help us come away with 3 points,” Welham said.