DURHAM, N.H. – Brooke Bercari (Bordentown, N.J.) recorded a goal and an assist and Margaux Shute (Norridgewock, Maine) made five saves for her second consecutive shutout in the University of New Hampshire field hockey team’s 2-0 America East victory Saturday afternoon against Fairfield University at Memorial Field.
UNH improved to 9-8 overall and 2-2 in America East, and with the victory, the Wildcats secured a berth in the upcoming America East postseason tournament. Fairfield, a newcomer to the conference this season, is 3-15 overall and 0-4 in league play.
New Hampshire controlled play from the initial whistle and generated the first of its 16 penalty corners just 1:02 into the game. Bercari blasted a shot that caromed off the top of goalkeeper Elizabeth Thomas’ stacked leg pads. The Wildcats generated two more corners in the next three minutes and, on the latter one, a shot by Megan Shea (Melrose, Mass.) eluded Thomas but was blocked by Katherine Donovan in the goalmouth. The play resulted in a Wildcats’ penalty stroke in which Cally Cooke (Newburyport, Mass.) was denied when Thomas lunged to make a left leg-pad save.
The Stags eventually alleviated pressure from its end and generated a quick counterattack off a turnover in which Carly McCullough was alone in the middle of the circle and took aim at the left post. Shute made a sliding arm-pad save, however, to keep the game scoreless.
UNH finally converted its pressure into a goal and a 1-0 lead at 17:45. Sarah Craigue (Concord, N.H.) made the initial push off the penalty corner to stopper Shauna Sellenger (Londonderry, N.H.) at the top of the circle. Sellenger swung the ball to the top left, where Johanna Stemmler (Leimen, Germany) then executed a crossing pass to Kara Napolitano (Waltham, Mass.). She then settled the ball for Bercari, who fired a low shot through traffic into the cage.
The Wildcats struck again less than five minutes later to extend its advantage to 2-0 at 22:29. On what seemed like an innocuous play, Bercari’s long hit into the circle was redirected by Sellenger and the ball bounded into the cage.
UNH held a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard, as well as a 9-2 shot advantage and an 8-3 edge in penalty corners, at the half.
The ‘Cats continued to control possession early in the second half, but Thomas also continued her strong play in goal to keep the Stags within two goals as she denied Shea deep on the right side and then charged to the top of the circle to thwart a quick transition opportunity by Sellenger.
Fairfield created a 2-on-1 rush with 22 minutes remaining as Brittany Bates charged down the right side but was turned away by Shute.
The Stags called time out at 52:06, then moments later a penalty corner generated a dangerous bid by McCullough that was stopped near the left post. The visitors maintained pressure and soon thereafter a redirection by Jill Piacquadio off a long hit required Shute to make a right arm-pad save.
UNH regained control of the game but could not extend its two-goal lead.
Thomas finished the game with eight saves for Fairfield, which tallied totals of six shots and five penalty corners.
New Hampshire returns to action Oct. 21 at home for Senior Day against 12th-ranked Boston College. Game time at Memorial Field is 3 p.m. The Wildcats’ six-member senior class will be honored preceding the game.