Field Hockey Looks to Defend America East Regular-Season Title, Add a Second One
Watch the WMUR-TV preview
DURHAM, N.H. -- Champions. The University of New Hampshire field hockey team earned that distinction by capturing the 2010 America East regular-season championship with an unbeaten conference record; UNH also entered the national polls for the first time in 10 years, then fell one goal short of advancing to the NCAA tournament with an overtime loss in the America East championship game to finish the season with 14 wins – the team's highest total since 2000.
The Wildcats return 17 letterwinners, including 10 starters, in a quest to once again be called champions in 2011 under the guidance of 21st-year head coach Robin Balducci. Included in that corps is a six-member senior class whose honors include one All-America Team selection, six NFHCA All-Region Team selections and seven America East All-Conference Team awards.
Whitney Frates (Woodstock, Vt.) and Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.) – both of UNH's 30+ point scorers a year ago – return to the front line as seniors for the 2011 season to lead a potent offense that topped the America East conference in assists and ranked #17 nationally in that statistic.
Frates garnered NFHCA All-America Second Team recognition last year, when she recorded 30 points on 11 goals and eight assists and a team-high .297 shooting percentage; the 11 goals tied for tops on the team. She tallied a point in 11 of 21 games and factored in all three goals in UNH's America East semifinal win vs. Maine. Frates, whose other accolades include NFHCA All-Region Team, America East All-Conference Team and America East All-Championship Team, enters the 2011 season ranked third on the program's career assist list (24); she is eighth on the career points leaderboard (with 82) and 11th in goals (29).
Rausch is coming off a year in which she led the team in both assists (13) and points (31) en route to being selected to the NFHCA Northeast Region Second Team. She led a triumvirate of 'Cats that ranked 1-2-3 in America East in assists per game and she ranked #16 nationally in that statistic; Rausch's 13 assists marked the highest total by a Wildcat since 1998 and is fifth on UNH's list of single-season superlatives. And she rose to the occasion against the top competition with 11 points (3g, 5a) in six games vs. nationally-ranked teams. In three years, Rausch has compiled 24 assists and 74 points to rank third on the program's assist leaderboard as well as 12th in points.
New Hampshire natives Tori Welch (East Hampstead, N.H.) and Hannah Richard (Hopkinton, N.H.) were both impact players as freshmen in '10 and will continue to grow as part of the attack this season. Welch, a 2010 America East All-Rookie Team honoree, played in 20 of 21 games, was in the starting lineup 15 times and totaled nine points on three goals and three assists. Richard, who played in all 21 games with six starts (including both postseason games), recorded her only points of the season with a goal in the America East championship game.
Mary Quill (Portsmouth, N.H.), another Granite State native who is now a junior, will look to increase her role. She played in 12 of 21 games – all off the bench, including all five America East conference games – a year ago after appearing in three games as a freshman in 2009. Mackenzie Joyce (South Pomfret, Vt.) saw action in one game last season as a freshman and will also vie for more playing time.
There are no seniors patrolling the midfield, but experience and talent are bountiful – it begins with juniors Emma Erler (New Hampton, N.H.) and Melyssa Woods (Glens Falls, N.Y.) and extends to sophomore Casey Pohlmeyer (Millersville, Md.).
Woods brings two years of starting experience to the midfield and has America East All-Rookie Team (2009) on her resume.
Erler, a 2010 America East All-Academic Team selection for her excellence in athletics and academics, stepped into a starting role last year and recorded six points on two goals and two assists. Half that production (1g, 1a) came in the regular-season finale against Albany to help lift UNH to the America East regular-season title.
Pohlmeyer started all 21 games and her contributions on the field were noted by the league coaches, who voted her to the All-Rookie Team. She played on both the offensive and defensive penalty corner units and contributed to the attack with six points (on three goals).
Claire Grogan (Canton, Mass.), who redshirted the 2009 season after joining the Wildcats as a walk-on, played in seven games – all off the bench – as a freshman in the 2010 season. Redshirt freshman Meg Williamson (Coc Cob, Conn.) will also look to have a bigger impact in 2011 following a strong spring season.
Kellie Joyce (South Pomfret, Vt.) is reunited at UNH with older sister Mackenzie as well as former Kimball Union Academy teammates Frates and Kyle Lyons. Kellie, who has a number of years experience at the National Futures and National Indoor Futures championships, garnered Regional All-America honors at KUA.
The defensive unit returns intact from last year and is headed by seniors Kyle Lyons (White River Junction, Vt.) and Kendall Deck (Bridgewater, N.J.) as well as sophomore Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.).
Lyons has two years of starting experience and last year she had a breakout offensive year as part of the offensive penalty corner unit that merited a plethora of accolades, including NFHCA All-Region Team, America East All-Conference Team, America East All-Championship Team and Wildcat Invitational MVP. Lyons recorded 11 goals and three assists for 25 points to tie for the team lead in goals and rank third in points.
Deck is a three-year starter whose collegiate accolades include NFHCA All-Region Team and America East All-Conference Team. In the 2010 season, she reprised her role as a stopper on the offensive penalty corner unit to rank second both on the team in assists (11) and in the conference in assists per game.
In addition to being an integral part of the defensive unit, Bozek, an America East All-Rookie Team selection who started all 21 games, was an instrumental part of both penalty corner units. She tied for fourth on the team in goals (six) and ranked fifth in both points (12) and shots. At the other end of the field, Bozek was credited with a defensive save in both America East postseason games.
Jess Sweeney (Accord, N.Y.) enters her senior year with limited playing time in two seasons at New Hampshire since transferring from Hofstra University, where she did not see game action as a freshman in 2008. Sweeney played in six games, including two starts, a year ago. She was particularly impressive as an emergency substitute in the America East championship game while Lyons was sidelined by injury.
Katie Walborn (Selinsgrove, Pa.) adds depth to the unit after a strong spring season; she did not see any game action last year as a freshman.
New Hampshire welcomes two 'Cats to the fold on defense. Christine Albertelli (Ballwin, Mo.) garnered All-Region and All-Academic Squad accolades last year as a senior at Marquette High School, where she holds the school records for career games played by a back and single-season games started. Maegan Grew (Hampton Falls, N.H.) helped backbone Winnacunnet High School to a New Hampshire state title with an undefeated record in 2010, when she was named the state's Player of the Year; Grew was also a three-time All-State selection.
New Hampshire is not lacking experience in goal, where two-year starter Katherine Nagengast (Westborough, Mass.) has played 99.3% of the minutes the past two seasons – she played every second in goal as a sophomore in 2009 and all but 19:30 of 1482:09 last year, when she recorded two shutouts and held the opposition to one goal nine times. Nagengast backboned UNH to the 2010 America East regular-season title with a 5-0 record, 1.20 GAA and .786 save percentage. Overall in 21 games (all starts), she went 14-7 with a 1.96 GAA and .703 save percentage; the 14 wins marked the highest total by a UNH goalie since 2000. Nagengast was impressive at defending the home field, where she was 8-2 with a 1.41 GAA and .767 save percentage in 10 regular-season games at Memorial Field.
Incoming freshman Carlie Tarbell (Wakefield, Mass.) will be Nagengast's understudy in 2011. Tarbell was named to the NFHCA High School All-Region Team as well as the Independent School League MVP in 2010, when she recorded a 0.60 GAA, .904 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 20 games for The Rivers School.
UNH starts the season with a road trip to The Ohio State University, where the 'Cats open play Aug. 27 against the Buckeyes, who advanced to the national semifinals a year ago. One day later, UNH plays Kent State University, which won the MAC tourney title and lost to American University in an NCAA tourney play-in game.
New Hampshire plays its home opener Sept. 2 against regional rival Brown University. Game time at Memorial Field is 3 p.m. The Wildcats look to extend its streak of consecutive league postseason appearances to five when the America East Championship is held Nov. 4-6 at the site of the highest seed.