UNH Men’s Soccer: Wildcats Grab #1 Seed, Hosting Semifinal Game vs. Binghamton

Evan Mullings, Sports Writer

DURHAM, N.H. – That makes four consecutive America East Regular Season Championships for the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Men’s Soccer team. 

UNH needed a win last Tuesday at Wildcat stadium against UMass-Lowell to keep themselves in the running for the America East regular season crown. A 3-0 win against the Riverhawks put the Wildcats in the right spot to firm up the title, but for now, it was out of their hands. 

As time expired on a brisk first night in November at Wildcat Stadium, all eyes turned to the ongoing match between the Catamounts of Vermont and the Great Danes of Albany. 

After UVM was able to knock off UNH 2-1 on October 28th at Virtue Field, they controlled their own destiny to the #1 seed having the tie-breaker advantage over the Wildcats. UAlbany was able to fight off the Catamount push to secure a tie, dropping UVM to 5-1-1 in America East play. With the Wildcats sitting at 6-1-0, they locked up the #1 seed outright. 

The importance of that result cannot be understated when you look at the Wildcats’ all-time record in Wildcat Stadium and what they have been able to do against the conference. Going on the road in a game where you must win is a difficult task no matter who you are. For UVM, the wheels came off late despite the win against the Wildcats. A loss to UMBC on October 22nd gave the Wildcats some oxygen and a late push down the stretch lifted them to home field throughout the America East playoffs. 

Unlike the Catamounts, the Wildcats faced adversity early in the season. They started as the #9 ranked team in the country that fell to 0-2 in the month of August. The young Maryland offense gave the Wildcats all that they could handle in the opener, and Boston University got one good look and capitalized to send the Wildcats to 0-2 at the time. With Tola Showunmi sidelined at the time due to eligibility restrictions, there were questions, especially up front. 

That is when the Wildcats started sweeping wins together with consistency. They mustered together eleven wins in twelve tries that featured two monster 1-0 victories with the game-winning-goal coming late. Gustavo Rodriguez scored his first goal of the season in the 76th minute against NJIT and Yannick Bright registered his second goal of the year in the 71st minute against a strong Yale team on the road. Despite their 2-1 loss to Vermont, the ‘Cats were able to rebound with that 3-0 home win against UMass Lowell. Great teams bounce back from tough defeats. 

The Wildcats will have their chance to return to the America East Championship game this Thursday (11/10) at 6:00 PM as the Binghamton Bearcats roll into Wildcat Stadium looking to pull off the upset. Nothing by any means is certain. UNH beat the Bearcats this season just 1-0 on a goal that came early from the electric Paul Mayer. 

The other side of the bracket features #2 UVM and #3 UAlbany, hitting home the point after their recent tie that any result can come to fruition. Will we get the clash of the titans at Wildcat Stadium that we did last season? We may, but the Wildcats will still need to do what they do best and that is to take care of business by defending their home turf and beating the opponents that they should beat. That is exactly what Marc Hubbard’s team has done since the beginning of September.

The most striking advantage outside of being at home that the Wildcats have can be pictured in the goals against column. Binghamton surrendered 25 goals (1.39/GM) to their opponents this season while the Wildcats allowed just 9 (0.56/GM). 

UNH did a phenomenal job all season long limiting not only goals but shots, penalty kicks, and corner kicks which are all crucial elements to an offense. 

Binghamton’s offense was good this year. They scored 28 goals (1.56/GM), had 204 shots, and averaged 11.3 of those per game. UNH had similar numbers posting 29 goals (1.81/GM) with 239 total shots for an average of 14.9 per game. With all those numbers in mind, Binghamton had four more shots on goal than the Wildcats did (95-91). Tola Showunmi, Paul Mayer, Bilal Kamal, and others are going to have to be efficient on Thursday to keep the pressure on the Bearcats.

For Marc Hubbard’s group, one of the Bearcats players to be on the lookout for is forward and graduate student Ethan Homler who is coming into Thursday red-hot with goals in four of his last six games. He started all but one match for the Bearcats and finished with a team-leading 35 shots on the year. UNH’s Moise Bombito and Nils Buchwalder will be tasked with shutting down the flashy veteran forward come Thursday.

For the Wildcats, watch out for Eli Goldman. The unsung hero gave the Wildcats a spark offensively all year long, leading the team with six goals. He was consistently getting open in the dirty areas and finishing on rebounds and loose balls in the box. Goldman comes into Thursday with goals in his last two matches including late October’s defeat at Vermont.

You can watch the America East Semifinal matchup between the Wildcats and Bearcats this Thursday at Wildcat Stadium on ESPN+ at 6:00 PM. You won’t want to miss it.