LOUISVILLE, KENT. – Following a season shortened by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in which the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (1-1, 0-0) finished with a 4-8 record, the field hockey team opened the fall 2021 campaign with a shutout win against Ohio University (0-2, 0-0). 

UNH won the opener by a score of 1-0 against the Bobcats, fueled by a goal in the 44th minute from redshirt senior Bloem van den Brekel. The goal was the 21st of van den Brekel’s career as well as her 58th point. These totals make her the team’s active leader in both categories.  

Solid goaltending from junior Jemma Woods kept the Wildcats in the lead from there on out including a crucial save on a corner that occurred with just three minutes remaining in the match. Overall, Woods recorded five saves en route to her third career shutout. This was the Wildcats first shutout in a season opener since 1998, when the team defeated the Minutemen of UMass.   

Ohio outshot UNH by a total of 8-7, with five of those shots directed at net compared to UNH’s four. Neither team was credited with a defensive save in the contest.   

2021 is UNH head coach Robin Balducci’s 30th season at the helm for the Wildcats. Saturday’s win was the 285th in Balducci’s career, the most in program history. The longtime head coach was pleased with her entire team on opening day. 

“This was a good first one out of the gates, tough conditions because of the extreme heat,” explained Balducci. “This was a great team effort. The young kids stepped up. Jemma was tough. And it was a great finish for us to hold them off.” 

The story was not the same for the Wildcats on Sunday when they played their first game against the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals (2-0, 0-0) since 2017. UNH dropped the contest by a score of 3-0. Despite the loss, Balducci was encouraged by her team’s performance,  

“It’s an important game for us, moving us forward for what’s down the road,” Balducci continued. “I’m happy with what we were able to execute and accomplish regardless of the score.”  

Graduate student Alli Bitting, senior Katie Schneider and first-year athlete Filippa Niebuhr all found the back of the net for the Cardinals, moving their overall record to 2-0 on this young campaign. Louisville outshot the Wildcats 24-2. Woods recorded 10 saves on the night for the Wildcats, her fourth career double digit save total.  

UNH failed to create many offensive opportunities against such a daunting opponent in Louisville, but coach Balducci reiterated the importance of looking at the game through a positive lens.  

“It was a big game for us, holding a Final Four team to 3-0,” Balducci said. “I’m pleased with our adjustments from Saturday’s game. And the stats show Jemma was unbelievable for us.” 

As for the Wildcats, they return to the field Sept. 3 at Boston University (1-1, 0-0) at 4 p.m. Following Friday’s contest, the team will also take on the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0, 0-0) in Boston on Sept. 4 at 3 p.m. 

After concluding a six-game road trip the Wildcats will have their home opener in Durham at Memorial Field Sunday Sept. 19 at 12 p.m. against BU.   

Photo courtesy of UNH Athletics