DURHAM, N.H. — Soccer is the beautiful game, but the University of New Hampshire (UNH) scored ugly Tuesday night. The Wildcats’ offense had their claws out versus the Quinnipiac Bobcats (5-1-0). The ‘Cats finally found their goalscoring groove and fired five goals past the visitors while keeping a clean sheet for the sixth time this season. Head coach Marc Hubbard tinkered with his starting lineup, and the result spoke for itself. No. 9 UNH men’s soccer improved to 8-0-0 on the season with the win and improved their stellar record at Wildcat Stadium to 38-1-5.
Senior striker Tola Showunmi came on as a substitute in the second part of the first half. The forward typically opens the half with graduate student Johann von Knebel before the duo makes way for junior Bilal Kamal and graduate student Victor Menudier. This time Hubbard reversed the pattern. Showunmi came in fresh-legged in the 25th minute. He had an immediate impact and got Wildcats’ night started in the 31st minute and kept them going in the 42nd with two proper striker’s goals. Showunmi used his feet for the first and his head on the second. His second strike of the night is the kind of goal UNH has been needing lately. The buildup didn’t create a clear scoring chance, but the 6-foot-3 forward headed a towering cross from graduate student Sam Henneberg into the back of the net for the score.
The senior’s fifth goal regained him the title of top scorer on the team, passing junior Rory O’Driscoll. Showunmi said he was happy to be back on top and back on the scoresheet.
“There’s definitely a friendly competition,” said Showunmi. “Me and Rory get along well, so we are able to joke about it to each other, which is fun. Ultimately, we both know that us scoring is good for the team and helps us win, so we still support each other.”
He continued, “I think the team was really focused on finishing the chances we create and trying to have a dominant performance. We’ve had a good amount of low-scoring games, so there was definitely an emphasis on trying to end this game with more goals.”
UNH has often seen their attack sputter after they take the lead this season. In this game, the ‘Cats went big game hunting. In the 44th minute, graduate student Johann von Knebel cut through the Bobcats’ defense and found sophomore Dylan Maxon unmarked on the left wing. Maxon slotted his shot around the Quinnipiac keeper, but a goal-line clearance robbed him of the goal. The clearance only delayed the UNH’s third score, and sophomore Eli Goldman buried the rebound in the back of the net. The goal was a poacher’s chance and precisely what the offense has been lacking to this point.
Hubbard was happy to see his team finish their chances and put the game away early.
“We scored in a variety of ways. It was nice to score in bunches toward the end of the second half, and that opened things up in the second.”
The second half was another 45 minutes of UNH dominance. Von Knebel half-volleyed the fourth from inside the box, and graduate student Linus Fallberg completed UNH’s cleanest attacking move of the season to cap off a thunderous night for the Wildcats. Menudier sprinted free down the right wing and picked out Fallberg, who made a delayed run into the box. The suave Swede made no mistake with his finish for the fifth and final nail in Quinnipiac’s coffin.
The five-goal stomping certainly left the impression that the changes in the lineup had a positive impact. Hubbard said he made most of them for physical reasons rather than tactical.
“We had two games this week and wanted to build some rest in and reward others who’s been working hard in practice,” said Hubbard. But he did acknowledge the improved result with Showunmi and von Knebel coming in later in the first half. “We know the game opens up toward the end of the first half, so it was nice to get [Showunmi and von Knebel] in there and see them score.”
Fans will have to wait and see what lineup Hubbard trots out next versus Hartford (1-5-2) Saturday at 6 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Rick Wilson