By SAM RABUCK
She considers herself to be shy and reserved, but Caroline Murray makes a lot of noise.
The senior forward has tallied 8 assists so far this season, propelling the Wildcats to their 14th consecutive America East playoff birth. Murray’s impressive assist total tops the America East conference and ranks her 22nd nationally. In recognition of her impressive play, she was named the America East Midfielder of the Year on Wednesday in addition to garnering All-America First Team honors.
“She has a great vision and awareness for what’s happening on the field,” head coach Steve Welham said. “She’s two-footed. She can do both types of plays or moves with both feet, and that’s a big piece.”
Murray transferred to UNH from Ohio State in the spring of 2014, and her presence on the team was felt immediately.
In her first season as a Wildcat, Murray totaled 5 assists and found the back of the net twice. As the Wildcats entered the postseason that year, the New Canaan, Connecticut native continued to put her talent on display.
While trailing 1-0 in the 2014 America East semifinals against University of Maryland Baltimore County, Murray tallied an assist as she connected the ball to teammate Brooke Murphy for an 82nd minute goal, keeping the team’s title quest alive. In the ensuing America East Championship game, Murray played the role of finisher, netting a goal in the 12th minute. Her goal ended up being the game-winner against Hartford, and clinched the Wildcats’ first-ever America East crown.
“[Jenna Shaddock’s] cross was pretty perfect, and I was happy to be able to finish that chance for her and the other seniors,” Murray said.
Murray’s decision to transfer from the athletically prestigious Big Ten conference to the America East was largely based on seeing more field time. Murray only started in one game during her time as a Buckeye. Coupled with the appealing prospect of being closer to home, Murray decided it was time to make a change.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get to show what I could do,” Murray said.
“It was a wonderful person and a wonderful player having an opportunity to say ‘OK, here’s what I can do’ and put her stamp on the game,” Welham said. “It’s been great to see her develop more and more and become more and more confident.”
Although both Murray and Welham became a part of the UNH women’s soccer program in 2014, it wasn’t their first encounter with each other.
While Murray was in high school, she attended an Olympic Development Program Regional Camp in Rhode Island as well as a camp at Ohio State. Welham, who was present at both camps, was impressed with Murray, even though she was still only in high school.
“At that point, I was like ‘that’s it,’” Welham said. “[Murray] was the fittest kid there, and she was beating Ohio State players in their own fitness tests. Before she even got [to UNH], I knew she was going to be very good.”
At five-feet-five-inches, Murray’s size alone is by no means intimidating. But her commitment to conditioning and focus on improving one-on-one play has allowed her to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
“She’s the number one take-on artist and 1-v-1 player in the conference,” Welham said.
In fact, Murray’s constant threat to create opportunities on offense has drawn serious attention from opposing defenses.
“You see a lot of teams give her so much respect, meaning she’s going to be double-teamed a lot, “Welham said. “Not only is she good 1-v-1, she can also create plays.”
This skill and devotion to improvement has put Murray in a position to reach the professional level of soccer. As far as Welham is concerned, she possesses the drive and talent necessary to make it there.
“She can absolutely do that, which is exciting, “Welham said. “She stays after practice everyday to get better, and you see the top players in the world do that.”
“That’s been my dream all along,” Murray said. “I would love to find an opportunity somewhere, possibly overseas and see that happen.”
But as for the immediate future, Murray is working towards defending the team’s position as America East champions.
“We know as a team we have the talent to do what we did last year,” Murray said. “A lot of it is having the right mindset and believing in what we do as a team and in each other. We’re not worried that we’re a fifth-seed.”
Murray and the Wildcats will take on rival Maine at Maine’s field Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the America East quarterfinals.