UNH entered the America East tournament coming off a tough 2-0 loss to top seeded Maine. UNH drew the first game of their America East tournament campaign against western opponent Cal. When asked about Cal, Coach Balducci mentioned “I am happy that it’s not a team we’re unfamiliar with, because that’s always tough for the players”. UNH had previously faced Cal two years ago where they were victorious in a 3-2 playoff overtime win. Coach Balducci also noted for a key for the game was to have the older players step up. “We’ll look to the more veteran group to hopefully put a few in.”
The game was played in Monmouth, New Jersey; a neutral location for the playoff matchup.
Both teams started timid as in most playoff games. There were not any scoring chances until the 11th minute. For UNH, junior forward Bloem van den Brekel was able to blast a shot, only to be barley knocked away at the last second by the Cal goalkeeper. Cal marched down the field and got a good shot on net, but first year goalkeeper Jemma Woods was able to knock it away. Cal recorded a 4-1 shot advantage in the first.
Into the second quarter, van den Brekel generated another scoring opportunity just one minute in and was able to capitalize this time. She gave UNH a 1-0 lead over Cal on a breakaway opportunity where she was able to slide it past the Cal goalkeeper. The game remained quiet for the majority of the second quarter as UNH kept the ball out of their defensive zone with great midfield play. With a minute left, sophomore forward Finn Caron took a shot that trickled just wide of the net. This left UNH with a 4-2 shot advantage going into the half.
UNH started the second half red hot as they generated a corner one-minute in. They got off a clean shot, but the ball once again went just wide of the net. Five minutes later, Cal spawned a great offensive opportunity, but Woods was able to knock away three consecutive shots to keep Cal scoreless in the third quarter.
UNH managed to hang onto the game for most of the quarter until late in the fourth when devastation hit. Cal scored two within a minute to go up 2-1 on a converted corner and a deflected shot right after. UNH pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker with one-minute remaining, but to no avail they would fall 2-1 to Cal.
The loss knocked UNH out of the America East tournament and ended their season as a whole. UNH finished the season with an 8-10 record with a 2-3 record in the America East.
UNH will only lose three Seniors this year, but they are three key players who have held massive roles on the team this year. Midfielder Kayla Sliz, defensewoman Nicky Bajus, and forward Bailey Fanikos were all leaders for the team. UNH will look to take their success further next year with a young squad that will need leaders to emerge.