DURHAM, N.H. – No. 14 University of New Hampshire (UNH) men’s soccer (4-0-1, 3-0-1) returned home to Wildcat Stadium on Friday where they dominated the Hartford Hawks (2-1-0, 2-1-0) in a 4-0 victory. However, the win didn’t come without a cost as junior captain Jonny Wolf left the game early with what appeared to be a knee injury.
The Wildcats started off fast with early possession and got their first shot on goal when junior Chris Pinkham fired a shot labeled for the bottom left corner, but it was saved by first-year goalkeeper Rotem Fadida. UNH kept the pressure on with four corner kicks in a row, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunities.
UNH’s persistence never faltered as they continued to tire out Hartford with the constant play through their defense and switching fields. The Wildcats continued to create opportunities and finally rang one off the post and sophomore Bilal Kamal was fouled in the box looking for the rebound. UNH sent out graduate student Paul Mayer to take the penalty kick and he buried it giving UNH the 1-0 advantage.
With all the momentum in UNH’s favor they were able to score one more before the end of the half. Some fancy footwork from multiple Wildcat forwards led to a chance for Kamal at the top of the penalty box. He fired the ball in the top right corner where Fadida couldn’t make the save. UNH went into the locker room with a firm 2-0 lead and posted three shots on goal. Hartford only recorded one which graduate student Alejandro Robles handled with ease.
Coming out of the locker room UNH kept the same intensity, keeping possession and fatiguing Hartford as they attempted a comeback. Hartford switched up styles trying to put more pressure on the UNH defense by not allowing them as much time with the ball as they did in the first half. The comeback attempt was short lived for the Hawks, however. Senior Linus Fallberg rocketed a shot from 30 yards out in the 56th minute. The Sweden native tallied his ninth goal of his career to give UNH the 3-0 lead.
Even with the 3-0 lead the ‘Cats kept pressure in the Hartford end and with the middle of the field open it gave UNH easy through opportunities. Mayer was able to collect another ball near the top of the penalty box and ripped one that deflected off Fadida and into the open net.
UNH dominated the game in almost every fashion. The Wildcats outshot Hartford 19-7 and took seven corner kicks to the Hawk’s one. Robles earned his 10th career shutout with two saves on the day and a couple of solid possession plays knocking the ball out of harm’s way. He was also named the America East Defender of the Week after his performance in the shutout victory.
Head coach Marc Hubbard was happy with his team’s performance, but his first thought was with Wolf and his injury.
“My first thought is we lose Jonny Wolf to an injury, so our thoughts are with him.” He continued, “don’t know what that is going to look like [moving forward].”
Hubbard was happy with the win and the shutout but still knows his team has more to prove even after a statement win.
“We made a good statement I think but still leaving a lot out there to improve and learn upon so not perfect by any means. We need to keep learning and improving.”
With the team’s fourth win of the season, they leaped two spots in the United Soccer Coaches Poll to No. 12 in the nation. This ties the highest ranking in program history.
The Wildcats will be in Wildcat Stadium this week where they are now 31-1-5 all-time and outscoring their opponents 70-13. They hold an 8-2 advantage at home this season. The next opponent to visit Durham will be the UMass Lowell River Hawks on Friday, April 2.
Photo courtesy of China Wong.