Minutemen take on undefeated New Hampshire

By Herb Scribner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

For the second straight game, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team will take on a side that isn’t used to losing as it faces undefeated New Hampshire on Saturday.

Other than being unbeaten, the Wildcats (3-0-2) boast a tough team that can dominate with its strength. UMass midfielder Ben Arikian doesn’t deny that UNH pushes its opponent to the limit physically.

“They’re usually a big strong, physical team,” Arikian said. “That’s one thing we lack is height and physical strength so we’ve got to make up for it with our soccer.”

Prior to facing Central Florida a week ago, UMass coach Sam Koch compared both the Wildcats and the Golden Knights in terms of skill.

“I think in a lot of ways they’re very similar,” Koch said. “I think UNH is a bigger team and try and put the ball and the air more.”

Any viewer of a college soccer game notices immediately the almost-chaotic pace of the ball and how possession for a team is sometimes very limited. For UNH, the game is much more possession-based.

“UNH is actually trying to possess the ball a little bit more,” Koch said. “[The Wildcats] can play either way and will play the way the other team plays.”

Arikian, who holds a leadership role for the Minutemen, explained that there are ways to defeat UNH even if the Wildcats put the ball in the air more often than the Maroon and White.

“We’ve got to play the ball around them, keep it on the ground a little bit more,” Arikian said. “Hopefully play a little less direct to them and not fall into their game, and when we do that we start struggling.”

The Wildcats started off their season at the Nike Fall Classic where they did not a lose a game, drawing 0-0 with Wisconsin-Milwaukee after two periods of overtime in the opening contest and then shutting out Central Connecticut, 1-0.

After the Fall Classic, the Wildcats moved on to the Smith Barney Nike Classic, hosted by UMass’ most recent opponent, Vermont. Both games for UNH went into double overtime. While the Wildcats tied Cornell in their opening game, they found a lucky strike in the follow-up match against Presbyterian.

As the Minutemen played a long-winded battle against the Catamounts on Wednesday, UNH went toe-to-toe with Bryant. The Wildcats scored in the 43rd minute to open up the scoring off a very deep cross from Brad Hilton. After Hilton booted the ball up the field for Jon Harris, Harris drew out the keeper and needed a single touch for the finish.

The Bulldogs (2-4-0) forced the game into overtime, but it was not enough to stop Hilton and the rest of the UNH offense. Hilton struck the ball into the back of the net just over a minute into extra time for his second goal of the season as well as his second game-winning score. The junior midfielder also has a pair of assists on the year.

The Wildcats have pushed the game to overtime on four of their first five games this season.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]