UNH Men’s Soccer: Team Climbs Back to .500 After Buchwalder Penalty Kick


Evan Mullings, Sports Writer

Back to .500. I’m sure if you asked any of the players before the season if .500 was the place they’d want to be after six games, they’d probably be disappointed. That being said, given how the season has started, it’s a sigh of relief.  

 It’s been an interesting stretch for the Wildcats over their last four games dating back to September 3rd against VCU. Coming into that matchup they stood at 0-2, desperately needing to put something into the win column and it took them 1:24 to score first after Rory O’Driscoll cleaned up a loose ball near the goal. It was their first goal of the season, and it was a big one.   

There wasn’t much going on throughout the match as UNH played really well defensively and limited the opportunities for VCU, ultimately coming away with their first win of the season 1-0. 

 Next on the docket came Florida International as they rolled into Durham looking to knock off the Wildcats for the second time at home this season. The Wildcats were having none of that as they soundly defeated FI 3-0. Moise Bombito who’s really played well of late, Rory O’Driscoll, and Paul Mayer registered goals for the Wildcats in a game where the offense finally broke through. There was some concern through the first three games about the lack of goal-scoring and missed opportunities, so it was a big confidence booster for the club to put up three in their second consecutive shutout win. 

 The Wildcats then took to the road to play Providence in a game where they had some momentum coming in. Two straight wins at home, three goals in their last game, and back to .500. The momentum was short-lived though as Providence shut the Wildcats down. UNH only had one shot on goal for the match and that shot came in the first half. They entered the second half down 1-0 and didn’t register a shot on goal the rest of the way. After two straight wins, it wasn’t the result the Wildcats were hoping for.  

 Coming off the loss to Providence, the Wildcats returned to Durham to take on UC Irvine, a game they needed to win. The great news in this one was the return of star forward Tola Showunmi. Showunmi had been tied up in eligibility issues, but it was worth the wait. His return is a huge boost to the Wildcats after he ranked 24th in the nation last year with 10 goals.    

The story of this match was missed opportunities but then capitalizing on one opportunity. Tola Showunmi had two brilliant chances to score including a potential tap in to the right side of the goal that kicked off his ankle and high over the net.  

 After the match, Marc Hubbard said, “He’s upset he wasn’t able to finish a couple of those but just told him to keep his head up, it’s good to have him back, and score in the most important matches later in the year.”  

In the second half, UNH had multiple grade A chances in short order. Paul Mayer picked up a loose ball from inside the box and pushed it wide. Tola Showunmi then got robbed on a chance after a corner kick by UC Irvine goalie Luke Pruter and to cap it all off, Eli Goldman had a great opportunity inside the box, but Pruter stretched out to get it with the tip of his finger.  

It felt as though we were heading to a tie until a UC Irvine player was called for a handball with 12 minutes to go. The players on both sides had no clue what was going on until the next thing you know Nils Buchwalder is lining up for a massive penalty kick. The graduate student took a few jumps and struck a ball up top over Pruter. It was an incredible shot and the break the Wildcats needed. After the match, Buchwalder said he was nervous about the kick but was thrilled to see it go in. The Wildcats were able to hang on for a massive 1-0 win. Rory O’Driscoll, Yannick Bright, and Chris Pinkham were all out, so an especially big win given the circumstances.  

“A win’s a win. I think we created enough chances to win the game. We put the ball into dangerous spots and had enough chances,” Marc Hubbard noted after the winning effort.   

The energy at Wildcat Stadium for the match against UC Irvine was great and it’s reasonable to expect that the Wildcats can get rolling now. Up next is a road tilt against the Bryant Bulldogs on Saturday, September 24 at 2:00 PM.  

Photo Courtesy of UNHWildcats.com