Felines fell familiar foes 1-0 as women’s soccer drops season opener


Photo courtesy Vincent Dejana, UNH Athletics

One goal was enough for UNH in their win over the Huskies.

Peyton Doyle, news correspondent

The Northeastern women’s soccer team went 15 months without playing a game. That ended Sunday afternoon with a lone goal by New Hampshire’s freshman defender Alivia Kelly. The goal made the difference  in the Wildcats 1-0 win over the Huskies in their season opener. 

“It was our first game back. There were a lot of nerves, and I think that got the best of us early on,” head coach Ashley Phillips said.

Sunday’s game was a chance for the Huskies to see what their younger players could do at the collegiate level, especially after the long hiatus.

Sophomore goalkeeper Angeline Friel started in goal for Northeastern over senior goalkeeper Megan Adams. Prior to the game, Phillips said that the starting goalkeeper would depend on certain opponent matchups this season. Both Friel and Adams are talented players, but it was Friel who got the nod against UNH, stopping four shots for the Huskies in her fifth career start.

Other notable youngsters getting their first game action were freshman defender Allie Vasquez, who played the full game, and freshmen midfielders Gabrielle Scarlett and Eleanor Fisher. 

The NU attack took six shots in the game, just three of which warranted a save by New Hampshire’s junior goalkeeper Cat Sheppard. The attempts came from redshirt senior forward Kayla McCauley, senior defender Mikenna McManus and senior forward Chelsea Domond. Each player had two shots, but Domond and McManus were the only two to get their tries on target. 

In the first half, the Huskies did well to maintain possession, taking their time with the ball and patiently trying to develop an assault on the goal. The Wildcats, however, played fast and moved to counter hard, screaming through the midfield looking to intercept passes. 

New Hampshire sent long passes up through the defense, trying to pierce their opponents’ wall. They played with pressure, pressure and more pressure, never relenting when they had possession and hounding the Huskies when they tried to get it across midfield. 

Players like senior captain Francesca Picicci made life tough for the Huskies, leading swarms of Wildcats to every ball. This forced the Huskies to wait back and regroup, trying to assess gaps in the opponents’ press. 

Early on in the opening period the Huskies began to adjust and found ways to break through midfield, but often once the ball crossed the logo it quickly found a defender. 

Domond, a bright light early for Northeastern, hit several good crosses in the first half. The senior forward used her speed on the right wing to get past defenders and try to find her teammates in the middle. 


Domond delivered the first shot of the game, but the off-balance strike ended up being an easy save right at Sheppard. Sheppard, a junior for the Wildcats, had an outstanding 2019 season as a sophomore in goal, allowing just 18 goals over 18 games and posting five shutouts. 

Following a stretch of sustained attack by the Huskies including two corners, some swift long balls by the Wildcats found Picicci burning up the sideline, bearing down on Friel. Vasquez was unwilling to let her mark score in her debut, however, making an incredible tackle and knocking the ball out of bounds.

On the following play, Wildcats’ freshman midfielder Anna Hewlett found Kelly with a well-placed cross off of a corner-kick, and the freshman perfectly executed a header into the top of the net giving her team the lead.

Despite the goal, it wasn’t on defense where the Huskies struggled in the first half. Prior to that corner, the Wildcats hadn’t even put a shot on net. Poor passing prohibited promising positioning for NU, as they had plenty of opportunities to get the ball to players behind enemy lines; they simply struggled to strike the ball accurately. 

The times where the Huskies ripped through the midfield with pace and crisp passing, the Wildcats’ backline showed its teeth, storming down on anyone making runs near the box and throwing themselves at any potential passes to the middle. 

When Northeastern threatened on crosses from corners, Sheppard resembled Mike Tyson driving the ball out of her box with a heavy right hook. 

For the Huskies defense, Vasquez shined in her debut. Toto would be proud of how well she held the line for Northeastern, valiantly fending off Picicci on several occasions as she roared towards the net. Senior defender Julianne Ross, sophomore defender Jane Kaull and McManus manned the rest of the stout NU defense, swiftly marking every intruder and racing to deflect shots and passes. 

As for the other freshmen, Scarlett played well in her debut, making several threatening runs deep into Wildcat territory in her limited action. Fisher then replaced Scarlett in the midfield following halftime, marking her Husky debut. 

Coming out of the break, the Huskies had opportunities to tie the game, keeping the ball on New Hampshire’s side of midfield, but Sheppard wrenched away any hope of a comeback as she jumped on every ball that entered her orbit. Despite better passing and movement by the Huskies, the Wildcats’ goalkeeper smothered her opponents’ second-half fire to help her team pull out with the win.

While Northeastern could not puncture the goal line of Sheppard they made sure that their deficit would not grow larger. The Huskies pinned back their ears and played hard-nosed, physical defense, making their presence known in the frozen tundra of New Hampshire. 

The team looked much sharper following halftime and competed hard with the Wildcats to try and come away with their first win since Oct. 26, 2019.

Phillips is not too worried about her team’s opener — everyone expected some nerves and rust after such a long break.

“There was a lot to build on-a lot we think we can build on-and the talent is there,” Phillips said. “The girls just struggled because they haven’t been out there, and I think they were really excited and a little bit nervous today.” 

The Huskies look to get their first win of the season at UMass Lowell Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.