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Nerbonne scores early as UNH’s season ends out West

The UNH field hockey team lost Friday afternoon to the University of Pacific Tigers 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament. Lindsey Nerbonne scored the opening goal, but in the rematch from last year’s quarterfinal matchup, the Tigers were able to defend their home turf and move on.

The Wildcats, who went in as the third seed in the East division, finished the season 7-12 overall and 4-4 in conference. Pacific was able to win its sixth consecutive game and advanced to the championship on Sunday where they fell to the number one seed Stanford Cardinal 1-0.

Nerbonne was able to score first. Ashley Mendonca took a shot from the top of the circle, escaping pressure from the 25-yard line and Nerbonne swung it to her left to deflect the ball past Laura Pujade in the cage.

“I was pleased with how we put some pressure on them in the end, but [Pacific] had too much firepower for us early on answering each of our first two goals,” head coach Robin Balducci said.

At 17:32 in the first half, Ash Rutherford spun to her left and lifted a backhander to get the equalizer past Kelsey Rudert to make it 1-1.

The Tigers were winning the small battles in the late stages of the first half, and it resulted in them taking the lead at 30:07. America East Offensive Player of the Year Kriekie van Wyk was able to capitalize on teammate Ali Campos’ shot from the top of the circle and tipped it past Rudert to make it 2-1.

“They have a savvy and maturity that we couldn’t match today,” Balducci said.

The maturity proved important in the second half when Pacific extended the lead to 3-1 on Axelle Steffen’s goal at 42:39. A positive stat sheet for the Tigers at this point not only was instrumental, but daunting on the Wildcats.

The comeback ‘Cats would not go down quietly, though, as Katie Audino was able to find the back of the cage at 45:38. Audino, who ranked second on the team in assists this season, finally scored her first goal of the season as she scored off a rebound chance coming from a corner opportunity.

It was 3-2, and momentum was back on the Wildcats’ end, but van Wyk scored her second of the game and 21st of the season on a penalty corner direct shot to give Pacific a 4-2 lead at 47:12.

When it was all said and done, the Wildcats, led by seniors Jackie Hozza and Nerbonne, saw their late season surge end with a loss.

“[Rudert] played great for us in goal, and yet again same with [Nerbonne],” Balducci said.

The Wildcats had the edge in the second half 17-9 in shots and 5-3 on corners, but it was not enough.

Nerbonne ends her career ranked No. 9 on the program’s career goals leaderboard with 38. Her 83 points is tied for 10th with Kathy Cortez (1991-94). While Nerbonne and Mendonca finished for the team lead in points with 27.

Balducci remained optimistic about what the future holds for UNH field hockey.

“I’m optimistic. With only two seniors we could mount some [offense and provide] pressure at the end of the game,” she said. 

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