BURLINGTON, VT. — No. 11 University of New Hampshire (UNH) men’s soccer (6-0-1, 5-0-1) defeated rival Vermont (4-1-1, 4-1-1) by a final of 2-1 to give the Wildcats the America East regular season crown for the second straight season.
The Wildcats will be the No. 1 seed in the four-team America East Championship which will be played in Wildcat Stadium Thursday, April 15, and then again on Saturday, April 17. The Wildcats will be looking to win their third straight America East title.
UNH came out of the gates ready to go and ready to clinch the top seed in the America East. Just six minutes in they generated their first opportunity from graduate student Sam Henneberg who ripped a shot low but senior goalkeeper Nathan Silveira came up with the timely save. Vermont pushed back in another physical game with a chance of their own but graduate student Alejandro Robles stood tall and made the save to keep the score tied at zero.
UNH broke the stalemate and finally got through the stingy Vermont defense to score their first goal of the season against the Catamounts. Graduate student Paul Mayer sent a shot to the left side of the net just out of the reach of Silveira giving him his team-leading fifth goal of the season and his team the 1-0 lead.
Mayer’s goal along with an assist earned him his second America East Offensive Player of the Week on the season. He last earned the honor on March 23 following a 2-1 win over Stony Brook.
The Wildcats felt the momentum shift in their favor and less than three minutes later senior Victor Menudier had a grade A chance. He was able to one-time the ball from eight yards out but Silveira came up with a fantastic save keeping the score 1-0.
The Wildcats were the better team in the first half posting four shots compared to Vermont’s one. Silveira kept his side within striking distance but coming out of halftime UNH was able to increase their lead quickly.
In the 55th minute sophomore Bilal Kamal extended the UNH lead with his third goal of the season when he ripped a shot past Silveira. From there Vermont seemed to show some resiliency and fight.
They were able to answer the UNH goal with one of their own nearly 10 minutes later off the foot of first-year defenseman Bjarni Adalsteinsson. This was the first goal Vermont had scored against the Wildcats this season and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
With Vermont only trailing by one they continued to apply pressure on the UNH side of the field but Robles and the UNH defense held strong in the final minutes not allowing the Catamounts to tie the game. The game ended 2-1 in favor of the Wildcats.
Both teams took 12 shots with six of them on goal for UNH and four for UVM. Both goalkeepers showed why they are two of the best in the conference with Robles coming up with three saves while Silveira posted four.
It didn’t matter where the Wildcats played this season as they went undefeated in this truncated schedule. The team has now risen even further in the United Soccer Coaches Poll after their victory in the season finale. UNH is now No. 10 in the nation, topping their previous best which was set the week prior. This is the first time in program history to team has reached the top-10.
The Wildcats next game will be against the fourth seeded Hartford Hawks (3-2-1, 3-2-1). UNH defeated the Hawks earlier this season in a 4-0 shutout. The Wildcats will play Thursday at 2 p.m. Vermont and NJIT (4-4-1, 4-2) at will kick off at 7 p.m. The winners of those game will play Saturday, April 17 in Wildcat Stadium for the America East Championship.
Photo courtesy of Nich Hall.