DURHAM, N.H. – Senior forwards Michelle Sheehan (Belmont, Mass.) and Sara Hourihan (Lynnfield, Mass.) each scored goals in the final 13 minutes of play to lift the University of New Hampshire women’s soccer team to Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 come-from-behind America East win against the University of Hartford on NIKE Senior Recognition Day at Lewis Fields.
The Wildcats improve to 6-9-1 on the season, including 5-2-0 in America East, and move into second place all alone in the conference. The Hawks fall to 7-5-4 overall and 4-2-1 in the conference.
Trailing 1-0 in the 78th minute, the Wildcats gained the equalizer when two members of their senior class connected for a goal. Senior midfielder Caitlin Whelan (Weymouth, Mass.) blasted a shot off a direct kick from the left side of the field that was saved by Hartford goalkeeper Lauren Brodeur. Brodeur could not corral the ball, however, and gave up a rebound that was loose in front until Sheehan, running along the goal line from right to left, put her foot on the ball and knocked it into the left side of the open net. The goal was Sheehan’s sixth of the year and 23rd of her career, which is good for seventh on UNH’s all-time goals list.
Just over 11 minutes later with 1:20 left on the clock, Sheehan helped put another goal on the board, this time with a beautiful pass. Hourihan left the ball for Sheehan as the two crossed midfield and took off toward the net. Sheehan sent a perfect ball right up the middle of the field, past a Hartford defender and into the box where Hourihan surgically threaded the ball between Brodeur and the right post as she fell to the ground and gave UNH a 2-1 lead. The goal was Hourihan’s team-leading seventh of the season and also moved her into a fifth-place tie with Jackie Wishoski on UNH’s all-time goals (26) and points (58) list.
Another UNH senior, goalkeeper Nikki Golding (Milton, Mass.), also played a large role in the match. Golding made four saves to improve to 4-4-1 on the season, including 4-1-0 against America East opponents. Golding is now 8-1-0 all-time versus conference foes.
The Wildcats controlled most of the action in the first half and knocked on the door numerous times, but were never able to break through. In the 35th minute, freshman midfielder Stephanie Gilkenson (Cranston, R.I.) sent a long ball into the left side of the box for junior midfielder Shaunna Kaplan (Framingham, Mass.). Brodeur came out to challenge Kaplan, who quickly kicked the ball past her. The ball slowly rolled to the right corner of the net where it looked as if it was going to go in until a Hartford defender kicked it away as it closed in on the goal line. In the 38th minute, Gilkenson maneuvered around the Hartford defense and had one defender to beat. Gilkenson kicked the ball ahead to get around the last defender, but played it up too hard and as she raced to the ball, she was met by a sliding Brodeur, who covered it up. In the 41st minute, freshman back Taylor Finley (Bedford, N.H.) struck a great ball off a corner that sailed over Brodeur’s head to a waiting Jill Brown (Manchester, N.H.). The fellow freshman back booted the ball toward the vacant right side of the net, but Brodeur recovered and made a great diving save to keep the game scoreless.
Less than a minute later, the tables turned as Hartford drew first blood. Brittany Black took a feed from Breeanna Robinson on the right side of the box and beat a diving Golding with a low shot into the far left corner.
The shot total was even at 16 apiece, with UNH holding an 11-5 advantage in the first half and Hartford with the same advantage in the second half. The Wildcats held a 6-1 edge in corners, including 4-0 in the first half.
Brodeur made five saves for the Hawks.
The game marked the last regular season home match for seniors Sheehan, Hourihan, Whelan, Golding and forward Julie O’Shaughnessy (Manchester, N.H.).
The Wildcats wrap up their regular season on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. when they head north to take on the University of Maine. The ‘Cats will then wait for the games on Oct. 26 to shake out before finding out where they stand for the America East tournament, which gets underway with first-round action Oct. 30.