‘Cats struggle to keep up
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 01:09
The Wildcats lost to Bryant University on the road last Friday afternoon, going down 2-0 after more than a week off and bringing their record to 2-5-1, despite their previous win at Harvard.
From the beginning, UNH had trouble keeping up with what coach Sam Lopes had said was a “fiery” team. Nine minutes into the first half, a series of close calls off the post resulted in a goal off the rebound by Bryant’s Katy Biagi. In the 50th minute, Bryant drew a penalty off of a throw in and scored on a penalty kick, making the score 2-0.
UNH returned from intermission with urgency, but their efforts were in vain as Bryant went on to shutout the Wildcats. Bryant goalkeeper Kaylan Conrad stopped all six shots faced. UNH freshman keeper Mimi Borkan stopped five of seven.
“The game started and we didn’t really bring the type of energy, the attitude or the effort to really compete against a team whose style is built around trying to outwork your opponent,” Lopes said.
“And when you don’t match or exceed that, you’ve got to be really good on the ball, and we were neither unfortunately.”
Lopes acknowledged the trouble that can come from a nine-day layoff, as UNH had prior to the Bryant game. Despite the emotional high that came after defeating what Lopes called “a quality opponent,” the Wildcats did not carry that momentum over into the game a week later.
“Quite honestly, it was the one concern going into the game,” Lopes said. “That the lay off would be too big, too long and it was going to take a little bit to get into that game.”
Consensus among the players is that the team lacked focus for much of the game.
“We could have showed up a lot more mentally for the game,” Borkan said. “We need to improve as a team … just get together and figure it out, how to bring 110 percent every game and not give it all for 20 minutes but not the whole 90.”
“We could have been more mentally engaged,” sophomore Kirsten O’Neil said. “Just mentally, emotionally and physically engaged. I think if all three components, if we do all of those three things, then we’ll be successful.”
Lopes said last week that Bryant’s aggressive style might make them a more difficult opponent than Harvard for his players. Combined with the grass field (UNH plays on turf) and the week away from a soccer field, UNH struggled early.
Part of the game’s result had to do with Borkan’s decision to break from the coach’s advice on the penalty kick. Initially, Lopes gave Borkan a tip from a scouting report on Shana Follette, the Bryant player she was facing in the penalty kick. When Follette went in for the kick, Borkan thought that she had tipped off the direction she was going.
Concerned that she’d blown her original intention, she decided to stay where she was. Unfortunately for Borkan, Follette shot the ball right past her, using the path predicted by Lopes in the first place.
Lopes defended Borkan, saying that she acted on the instincts that kick in during live play. On top of that, he pointed out the unlikeliness that the goalkeeper will make a save on a given penalty kick. He cited Borkan’s penalty kick save against Harvard, pointing out just how miraculous that play was at the time.
“To Mimi’s defense, she tried making a soccer decision, thinking she was going to go one way,” Lopes said. “And at the end of the day, the attacking player is supposed to score the PK. There’s too much that’s got to go right for her to make that save, so you can’t fault Mimi for not making the save.”
UNH goes to Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. this Wednesday. Lopes said he expects a tough game from Holy Cross, considering the momentum its likely to be riding after its 1-0 win against Loyola on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.