Photos taken by Madelyn Marthouse
After a successful first away game against Dover, Oyster River’s Unified Soccer team was eager to take on Exeter on Monday, September 27th.
Unfortunately, the Bobcats were outplayed by the Exeter Blue Hawks who beat them 2-1. However, they still gave it their all, managing to score one goal and executing a strong defense to prevent Exeter from scoring in the second half. As a unified team, members consist of players (students with intellectual or physical disabilities) and partners (students who are there to support players and help out on the field). Although many of the partners are new to Unified Soccer this year, the team has a good dynamic and is excited to continue working together and developing their skills as the season continues.
The team had high expectations about Exeter’s athletes and knew it would be a challenging game. “In the beginning, we were a little frazzled on the offensive,” explains partner Abby Deane (‘23). Unable to pass the ball effectively, Oyster River found it difficult to match up to Exeter who came out of the gate as a strong offensive team. Many of their passes were intercepted, allowing Exeter to edge ahead and score two goals within the last ten minutes of the first half.
Partner Aislinn Doherty attributes much of Exeter’s success to their ability to maintain energy and focus. “Their players are really determined. Sometimes people need a minute to just walk instead of run, but they didn’t take breaks on the field and they stayed pretty consistent and fast,” says Doherty.
Coming into the second half of the game, the Bobcats weren’t ready to back down. “When it was just zero to zero, there wasn’t as much competition because there was nothing on the line, but once they were already two points ahead, it started getting risky so we definitely got more determined,” explains Doherty. This newfound motivation helped the Bobcats clean up their passing and move the ball more easily down the field, allowing for more opportunities to score some goals. With the help of partner Tommy Fogg (‘24), player Mitchell Warden (‘23), was able to score, further closing the gap between Exeter and Oyster River.
While Warden led the offense, player Hayden Meredith (‘23) maintained a strong defense for the team as goalie, making three saves near the end of the second half. “This is Hayden’s first year playing goalie but he was awesome. He was stopping everything that came his way,” says Coach Alex Satterfield.
Although the Bobcats had a couple of chances to tie up the game, they were unable to catch up to Exeter’s initial lead. Having so many new members might have contributed to their loss, but the team believes that it was mainly due to their lack of practice time rather than their lack of connection. In fact, returning partner Megan Moody (‘23) says that the dynamic of new and old members has had a really positive impact. “I think everyone has the same mindset and same goals, and we all work together to get those goals. The partners are really good at encouraging the players, and it’s really rewarding for partners to see players achieving what they want with our help,” says Moody.
While team dynamic is there, the Bobcats still have plans for how they want to improve. “I think we just need to work on fundamental skills with passing, and learning how to move the ball around more,” says Deane.
Overall Satterfield is excited for how the Bobcats will improve moving forward, especially with the larger team. “We have huge numbers this year, bigger than any other year. So the program is doing really well and it’s been a lot of fun,” says Satterfield.
Catch the Bobcats at their next game at Gilford on October 4th, or at their next home game against Dover on October 18th.