DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) women’s soccer team defeated the University of Rhode Island (URI) by a final of 2-0 on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats (3-0) were the better team for most of the game and deserved the victory. Goals came less easily for head coach Steve Welham’s side against the Rams (0-2) after coming off a 5-1 offensive showcase versus Merrimack College (1-1). Despite the goalless first half, a determined UNH team always felt in control.
Coach Welham praised his team’s determination to get the win postgame noting that it was a
, “great key performance; we’re really happy with a win.”
UNH had most of the possession and looked the better side in the first half. Despite their control of possession, the Wildcats weren’t able to capitalize with a goal. UNH had their chances with eight corners in the opening 45 minutes of play. URI only managed two. With those corners came three shots for UNH, all of them on target. Rhode Island’s senior goalkeeper Teresa Morrissey frustrated the UNH attackers saving all three shots.
Welham said he wants the team to take more advantage of the corners they get.
“That’s always an area where we spend time on because an area where you can get goals.”
URI fired five shots on the other end of the pitch but failed to deliver a single shot on target. The Rams also committed 10 fouls in the first half compared to UNH’s three, but managed to escape without any yellow cards.
Welham said URI’s physicality threw UNH slightly off their rhythm in the first half. He said the team needed to regather themselves at halftime.
URI was handed two yellow cards inside the first 10 minutes of the second half. The second resulted from a foul on senior captain Francesca Picicci inside the box. From this foul, UNH was awarded a critical penalty kick. Sophomore attacking midfielder Whitney Wiley stepped up for the ‘Cats and lashed home the go-ahead goal from 12 yards out. The goal is Wiley’s third on the season and gave UNH a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
Shortly after the opening goal, junior keeper Cat Sheppard was called into action for the first time. Sheppard maintained the clean sheet with a save and kept the lead for the Wildcats.
URI continued to try and find a way back in the game but to no avail. Sheppard made her second save of the game in the 80th minute to hold the lead once again. Feeling the pressure from URI, the Wildcats countered. First-year forward Emily Bini found Picicci in the Rhode Island penalty box. Picicci slotted the ball in the bottom left corner from six yards out and gave UNH a 2-0 lead with nine minutes left to play. UNH saw out the victory and remained undefeated on the season.
Welham emphasized how critical the timing of the second goal was for UNH and praised Picicci.
“A one-goal lead with a team like Rhode Island is very dangerous… We wanted to get that second one to put them away and the team did a wonderful job of managing the game especially last five minutes, managing the moment and just really seeing the game out and closing down the game which was really nice to see. We had a lot of young players on the field, but you know our senior captain [Picicci] really stepped up and helped lead the way.”
The Wildcats will be back in action at home versus Maine (0-2) on Sunday. Welham expects intensity to be high in their fourth game and his team will prepare that way.
“Obviously we’re 3-0 but when we… come back and we train on Tuesday… our record is 0-0 and so is Maine’s. It’s the first conference game, it’s a huge school rivalry and we know it’s going to be a passionate game; it’s going to be an exciting game. There’s going to be a lot of emotions and we want to play good soccer and take the game to Maine. That’s what we want to do, that’s what we expect to do and we’re going to do everything we can to beat the Black Bears.”