DURHAM, N.H. —  After 90 minutes of regular play and a pair of extra periods, neither University of New Hampshire (UNH) women’s soccer (1-2-1, 0-0-0) or St. Francis College Brooklyn (1-2-2, 0-0-0) could come away with a goal, handing UNH their first draw of the season. 

UNH head coach Steve Welham admitted that it was frustrating to play as complete of a game as the Wildcats did and only come away with a tie. 

“It feels almost like a loss – a bad loss,” Welham said. “But that’s part of the game of soccer where you can dominate a team and not win.” 

Part of the Wildcats’ dominance came offensively as the team registered 12 shots on net and 19 corner kicks. Yet with each chance, a strong St. Francis defense and junior goalkeeper Kili Keshwar turned them away to keep the ‘Cats from finding the back of the net. 

The number of chances generated encouraged Welham, however, even if the team failed to come away with the ultimate prize. 

“For us to [get 19 corner kicks] was very positive. We’re going to get sharper in those areas,” Welham said. “But we just have to do a better job of finishing our chances. That’s the final piece for us.”     

UNH got one of their more quality looks 13 minutes into the second half. Sophomore Emily Bini fielded a corner kick, passed it through the legs of a pair of teammates, and found first-year forward Abbie Burgess. Burgess belted it from 20 yards out, forcing Keshwar to rise, but the shot skimmed off the goal’s top post and out of play.     

Burgess had a couple more chances during the match. One came with a shot that just sliced too far out of bounds. Another was a breakaway that junior defender Hannah Russell thwarted thanks to tenacious defense that prevented Burgess from getting a shot off. 

Regardless, it’s been slow going on the whole for the Wildcats offense, as they’ve scored just one goal over their last three games. 

A strong night on defense also fed into the dominance displayed by UNH. They held St. Francis to two shots on goal, both of which were saved by UNH’s senior goalkeeper Cat Sheppard, and only allowed four corner kicks. 

The Wildcats defensive play excited Welham. He believes, like the chances generated by the offense, it points to the Wildcats heading in the right direction even if their record indicates otherwise. 

“We feel like we can be in any game. It’s still a young season we’re just four games in. So, there’s a lot of good signs.” 

St. Francis got their best chance to break the tie in the game’s 32nd minute. The ball found St. Francis junior Jamie-Lyn Shimamoto off a deflection. Shimamoto laced a kick towards the top post but hit the crossbar. While St. Francis stormed towards the ball which now found itself in front of the net, referees ruled it was out of bounds, ending the threat. 

The Wildcats made a change to their starting lineup with the addition of sophomore midfielder Anna Hewlett who replaced first-year forward Meghan Guarente. 

Hewlett, who started all seven games last season for UNH and logged 102 minutes Thursday night was reinserted back into the starting lineup. She’s now fully recovered from an illness from this summer and is back in playing shape, said Welham.    

Welham went on to add that her return was a huge boost for the team both offensively and defensively.     

“Having Anna back in the starting lineup gives us some more looks attacking-wise. [Hewlett’s] a very talented player. Her vision, her creativity, her ability to distribute the ball: top-notch.”  

Luckily, the Wildcats won’t have to worry about the health of fifth-year senior and co-captain Francesca Picicci, said Welham. While attempting a header in the second extra period Picicci ran into the goalpost and fell to the ground. She got back up before ultimately being subbed out with two minutes remaining.  

“[Picicci] is healthy. She’s good to go for Sunday,” Welham said. “She’ll play through a river if you ask her.” 

UNH will resume their homestand and look to get their first win since August 19 when they host Syracuse University (3-1, 0-0) for a 2 p.m. kickoff Sunday afternoon. 

Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson