DURHAM, N.H. – Senior forward Michelle Sheehan (Belmont, Mass.) scored a pair of goals in her return from an injury to lead the University of New Hampshire women’s soccer team to Thursday afternoon’s 3-2 conference win over Stony Brook University at Bremner Field.
With their second consecutive victory, the Wildcats improve to 3-7-1, including 2-0-0 in America East play, while the Seawolves fall to 5-6-0 overall and 1-1-0 in the conference.
After missing seven games with an injury, Sheehan returned in the 30th minute and didn’t waste much time shaking the rust off her nose for the net. With four-and-a-half minutes remaining before halftime, Sheehan and fellow senior forward Sara Hourihan (Lynnfield, Mass.) hooked up on a beautiful give-and-go that gave Sheehan space. The Wildcat captain took her first shot in over a month, kicking the ball off of Stony Brook goalkeeper Amanda Hemme where it bounced into the left side of the net for Sheehan’s first goal since opening day.
Just 4:08 later, Sheehan again was able to finish when she got near the net. The service off a corner from sophomore midfielder Amy Avitabile (Pembroke, Mass.) produced a bouncing ball that caromed off a number of players before Sheehan was able to get a foot on the ball and knock it just inside the left post to give UNH a 2-1 lead just 21 seconds before the half.
The Wildcats widened their lead in the 53rd minute when senior midfielder Caitlin Whelan (Weymouth, Mass. teed up a blast from the top of the box that snuck just underneath the crossbar to make it 3-1 UNH. Freshman midfielder Stephanie Gilkenson (Cranston, R.I.) and sophomore midfielder Morgan Keefe (South Burlington, Vt.) each collected an assist on the play after Gilkenson took Keefe's pass and one-touched the ball to set up Whelan.
Stony Brook then went on the offensive, with Colleen McKenna getting two great scoring chances in a four-minute span. In the 56th minute, McKenna was six yards out on the right side of the box and had the entire left side open but popped her shot just over the crossbar. In the 60th minute, McKenna received an almost identical opportunity and again came away the same result.
The ‘Cats did the best they could to stave off a furious Stony Brook attack, but in the 79th minute, the Seawolves cut their deficit in half when McKenna used an individual effort to beat the UNH defense, elude Wildcat goalkeeper Nikki Golding (Milton, Mass.) and find the back of the net to make it 3-2.
The Wildcat defense buckled down and came up with a number of huge clear attempts in the final minutes to seal the victory. UNH is 7-2-2 all-time versus Stony Brook, including 6-1-0 in their last seven meetings. The ‘Cats also remain unbeaten at home all-time against SBU at 5-0-1.
Golding made nine saves to earn her second win of the season for the ‘Cats. Golding’s nine saves per game rank her seventh in the nation in that category. Hemme stopped two shots for the Seawolves, who outshot the Wildcats, 20-9, including 12-5 in the second half.
Stony Brook jumped on the board in the 29th minute when McKenna sent a blast on net from the left side of the box that ricocheted off of Golding’s fingertips and into the top right corner of the net. The Seawolves saw three scoring chances pass by the boards before the goal. In the 12th minute, McKenna’s header off a Trine Allenberg corner barely sailed over the crossbar. In the 19th minute, Golding was forced to make a diving stop to rob Holly Razzaghi’s shot from the right side of the box, while in the 28th minute, Golding went up to top to make the save on Brook Barbuto’s shot from the top of the box. Golding also erased a possible Stony Brook equalizer in the 47th minute when she punched away Barbuto’s bid from 25 yards out.
The Wildcats return to action Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. when they travel to Albany to take on the Great Danes at Varsity Field.