DURHAM, N.H. – Senior captain Kara Connolly (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) scored a goal in both halves to lead the University of New Hampshire field hockey team to Thursday night's 2-0 non-conference victory against Bryant University at Memorial Field.
UNH, which recorded a decisive 15-3 shot advantage by controlling possession, improved to 3-0 and the Wildcats have won the initial three games of a season for the first time since the 1999 squad went 4-0 en route to a 12-win season. Bryant is now 0-3.
Connolly, who has recorded a point every game this season and in seven of the last 10 regular-season games dating back to last year, recorded career highs in both goals and points (four) with her two tallies.
UNH goalkeeper Katherine Nagengast (Westborough, Mass.) was credited with one save in recording her first shutout of the season and fifth of her career. Bryant goalie Jennifer Gullotti stopped eight shots, including seven first-half saves.
New Hampshire maintained possession for most of the opening 10 minutes of the game, but then the Bulldogs generated a dangerous scoring opportunity on a penalty corner when they swung the ball to Julie Kuchyt in the middle of the circle and she directed a low shot towards the cage that Nagengast blocked aside.
Connolly gave the 'Cats a 1-0 lead at 14:10 when she gained possession outside of the 25-yard line and maneuvered to the left side of the circle, where she swept a low, backhanded shot inside the near post.
Less than one minute later, Bryant was awarded its third corner of the first half and Brittany Vasconcelos' shot from the top of the circle was redirected by Mallory Hancock wide right of the goal.
Midway through the opening stanza on a UNH corner, Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.), who tallied a game-high seven shots, hit the ball in play to Kendall Deck (Bridgewater, N.J.) at the top-right of the circle. Deck pushed the ball across the top and then Kyle Lyons (White River Junction, Vt.) blasted a low shot wide of the left post.
With 12 minutes remaining in the first half, Whitney Frates (Woodstock, Vt.) weaved from the 25-yard line to the left side of the circle before releasing a shot that was blocked down by Gullotti. Frates collected the ball off the rebound and sent the ball in front to Rausch, who stopped the ball with her back to the cage and directed a shot that Gullotti turned aside.
UNH generated another penalty corner with 8:30 on the clock. This time Rausch sent the ball to Connolly at the top of the circle and then Lyons elevated a shot over the top of the crossbar.
In the closing minute, the 'Cats went on a quick counterattack that resulted in Rausch blasting a low shot from the top of the circle that Gullotti kicked aside.
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead into halftime with an 11-2 edge in shots, but Bryant had a 3-2 advantage in penalty corners.
The teams combined for just five shots (UNH, 4-1) and two corners (1-1) in the second half as the 'Cats controlled play, but the Bulldogs' pressure in the last five minutes kept the home team on its defensive half of the field.
With 30 minutes remaining in the game, Casey Pohlmeyer (Millersville, Md.) – the reigning America East Rookie of the Week – struck a long outlet pass between three defenders to give Frates a breakaway against Gullotti. The keeper charged from the line and Frates, after shifting to the right, pushed the ball inches wide of the right post.
Connolly extended the advantage to 2-0 at 43:25 when New Hampshire capitalized on a penalty corner. Rausch struck the ball to the top-right side for Deck, who once again swung the ball across the top for Connolly. Her low shot found the back of the cage.
Bryant had a couple of scoring
chances midway through the period. On a corner initiated by
Katherine Andrusin, Olivia Jankins struck a low shot from the top
of the circle that was redirected wide right by the Wildcats'
defense. Moments later in a transition attack, Elise Boissoneau hit
the ball forward from 35 yards on the left side, but the charging
Nagengast narrowly won the race to the loose ball and kicked it
back towards midfield.
Connolly has factored into each of UHN's last four goals (three goals, one assist) and in five of the team's seven goals this season.
New Hampshire concludes its four-game homestand Sept. 5 against regional rival Providence Collge. Game time at Memorial Field is 1 p.m.