BROOKLINE, MASS. — University of New Hampshire (UNH) women’s soccer (1-1, 0-0) couldn’t overcome an early deficit against Northeastern (2-1, 0-0) on Thursday night in their first loss of the season. The game was highlighted by a six-save night for senior goalkeeper Cat Sheppard and a lack of offensive firepower for the Wildcats.
Senior Ashley Reuter notched the Huskies’ first shot of the night, stepping into the Wildcats penalty area and uncorking a shot. Sheppard, who claimed America East Defensive Player of the Week, snared the ball with her gloves for her first save of the night and the first goal kick for the Wildcats.
The Huskies kept applying pressure early in the first half with three corner kicks and a pair of shots on the net. Yet with each charge, Sheppard held her ground.
It was the Wildcat defense that made perhaps the biggest save in the early going. During the Huskies’ third corner kick of the half, the ball bounced right in front of the Wildcats net and right in front of sophomore Faith Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt was met by UNH’s fifth-year captain Casey Peterson who forwarded the ball out of danger while fellow captain and fifth-year midfielder Francesca Picicci sent the ball away to end the threat and preserve the stalemate.
Both Sheppard and the Wildcats’ defense were not able to remain perfect, however. 38 minutes into the game, junior midfielder Alexis Legowski laced a pass to fifth-year senior Mikenna McManus who fired it towards Sheppard’s near post. The goalkeeper reached out to stop the ball, but for the first time all night, she couldn’t. Instead, the ball found twine to give the Huskies their first and only goal of the night.
Head coach Steve Welham said he was encouraged by his goalkeeper’s performance and stated that when Sheppard is playing this well, the team can stick around in any game even if the offense is struggling.
“In moments of transition or when we were countered on, she’s there to be that steadying force and keep things out of the back of the net,” Welham said. “It’s very reassuring, very calming to have a goalkeeper like that back there.”
UNH was unable to find a consistent offensive groove throughout both halves. The Wildcats recorded zero corner kicks all game and zero shots on goal in the first half.
The second half was a different story for the Wildcats who applied pressure early and often. First-year forward Meghan Guarente registered the team’s first shot on goal in the opening minute of the half with fellow first-year athlete Abbie Burgess registering the second roughly 13 minutes later. Neither shot escaped Northeastern’s fifth-year goalkeeper Megan Adams, who stopped each to keep the Huskies ahead.
“It was the tale of two halves. The first half was weak, the second half was outstanding,” Welham said. “[In the] last 25 to 30 minutes of that second half, we felt we were all over them. Controlling the game, controlling the tempo, and played very well.”
UNH had their best chance of the night during the game’s dying minute. With 38 seconds to go Burgess found the ball off a deflection, sidestepped a Northeastern defender, and fired one on Adams’s far post. The goalkeeper lunged out to stop the ball and might’ve been beat had the ball remained in bounds. The shot was just off, allowing the Huskies to drain what was left of the clock and come away with a victory.
On the whole, Welham noted there were positive takeaways despite the loss.
“I think we had to understand what we needed to do to settle in the game. We were able to do that. Maybe it took us a little too long to do that,” Welham stated. “Nonetheless we settled in the game, played our style, and it paid dividends, just not the biggest one of getting a goal.”
UNH will stay on the road this Sunday, Aug. 29 to face off with the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils (1-1, 0-0). The Wildcats will aim to snap a five-game losing streak on the road that extends back to the 2019 season.
Photo courtesy of UNH Athletics.