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OT Thriller concludes home weekend for 'Cats

The Wildcats were able to walk away with a split this past Labor Day weekend. UNH fell to the Drexel University Dragons by a 3-2 final Friday afternoon, but bounced back with a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over Harvard on Sunday. Junior back Ashley Mendonca and senior midfielder Lindsey Nerbonne were the only two goal-scorers in both contests.
In Friday’s matchup, a combination of slow starts to each half and an inability to finish inside the circle doomed the Wildcats against the Dragons. The ‘Cats finished with 21 shots, while dominating the possession down the stretch as they attempted to recover from a two goal deficit.
“Thirteen shots in the second half, nine corners. I mean you can’t ask for much more when you’re trying to win a game,” head coach Robin Balducci said. “ We did the same thing with BU [last Sunday], came back to within a goal after being down two.”
The Wildcats fell down 1-0 early in the first half, but were able to get an equalizer from junior defender Ashley Mendonca off a nicely executed corner, with just 44 seconds before the halftime whistle. The momentum did not carry through halftime, however, as Drexel came out and quickly netted two goals in the first 3:24 of the second half. Less than a minute later, senior midfielder Lindsey Nerbonne scored her fourth goal of the season to bring the deficit to within a goal.
UNH was all around the circle and earning corner after corner while the clock ticked down, but they weren’t able to sneak one more by goalkeeper Erin Gilchrist, who finished the day with 10 saves. As the ‘Cats poured it on in the second frame, the team lacked execution and failed to tie the score. Balducci recognizes her team needs to be better in the offensive side of the field.
“We’ve got to finish in the circle,” Balducci said, “We’re generating a ton of firepower, and you know we’ve got to be able to put the ball in the net.”
Nerbonne and Mendonca continued their goal-scoring tendencies throughout Sundays contest against the Harvard Crimson.
The Wildcats were able to grind out a 2-1 overtime win against Harvard at Memorial Field, the second overtime win on the season for UNH.
The game ended in triumph, but began with disappointment. Balducci was blunt about the quality of play in the early goings of Sunday’s matchup.
“Really disappointed with our start,” Balducci said. “We focused on that because that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been giving up goals.”
Unfortunately for UNH, the team found itself trailing yet again.
With a restart in the top circle, Harvard’s Hannah Wellington dribbled the ball right and fired off a low shot to the left side of UNH goalkeeper Kelsey Rudert to give Harvard a 1-0 lead at 1:17 in the first half.
After that goal, Harvard would maintain its momentum. The Crimson would go on to receive two penalty corner attempts, one of which almost resulted in a goal, but was disallowed due to a high stick.
The second half, to the pleasure of Balducci, was a much better performance.
“Very similar to the last couple of games, we come on in the second half and I’m extremely pleased with the second half,” Balducci said. “We’re generating twenty-plus shots in each of the games and double-digit corners. That’s craziness. This thing about starting, it’s really aggravating. It’s been a frustration point for the group. I think they recognize it. They’re trying to figure it out as well.”
Mendonca stretched her goal-scoring streak to three games after netting a penalty corner goal for the Wildcats at 38:43. She was assisted by Gianna Bensaia and Katie Audino.
UNH would have five more opportunities off of penalty corner attempts after the Mendoca goal, but both teams pushed overtime, and Nerbonne saved the day for the Wildcats
Nerbonne lifted the ‘Cats passed Harvard with her fifth goal of the season after deflecting a shot by Bensaia at 77:46. UNH finishes their four-game home stand at 2-2 overall.
“I think we control a lot of our play in our games and then we just aren’t getting the ball into the net,” Nerbonne said, “but that’s going to come with time and more experience. Right now, I think we’re doing awesome, quick combinations and moving the ball.”
The Wildcats return to action Sept. 9 at Miami University (Ohio) at 4:30 p.m.

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