Game Notes: No. 18 Field Hockey Plays Host To UMass (08/24) and No. 15 Ohio State (08/26)
Game 1: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. UMass || Durham, NH || 2 pm
Game 2: Sunday, Aug. 26 vs. Ohio St || Durham, NH || 2 pm
The State of New Hampshire || The UNH field hockey team won the America East regular-season championship in 2010 and 2011 – with a combined league record of 9-1 – and takes aim at a three-peat in 2012 under the direction of 22nd-year head coach Robin Balducci, who was honored as the league's Coaching Staff of the Year both of those championship seasons.
The Wildcats, who return 13 letterwinners, including six starters, and welcome nine newcomers to the program, tied the school record for victories (17) and broke the single-season benchmark for goals, assists and points en route to winning the 2011 league tournament title and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.
In addition to a third consecutive regular-season title, successful defense of its tourney crown and another trip to the NCAAs, UNH looks to extend its streak of double-digit victories to four consecutive years, which is a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the 1997-2000 seasons.
Senior midfielder Emma Erler is the top returning 'Cat in both assists (10) and points (18); overall, she tied for third in assists and was fourth in points. Junior midfielder Casey Pohlmeyer (5g, 3a) and junior back Megan Bozek (5g, 1a) are the other top returning point producers. Bozek, an NFHCA All-Region Second Team and America East Second Team selection last year, anchors a young backfield that also includes league All-Rookie Team honoree Maegan Grew. Sophomore Carlie Tarbell was the understudy in goal in 2011 and was effective in limited time with a 0.39 GAA and .917 save percentage in six games (one start).
Wildcats Selected Fourth in America East Poll || UNH was predicted to finish fourth in the America East Conference standings this season in the 2012 America East Field Hockey Coaches' Preseason Poll that was released last week. The Wildcats garnered 14 points to place behind Boston U. (23 points), Albany (22) and Maine (16); both BU and Albany received three first-place votes. Fairfield (9) and Vermont (6) complete the poll. UNH was selected third in last year's preseason poll but proved the prognosticators wrong by successfully defending its regular-season crown.
A Look at the National Poll || UNH, which finished the 2011 season ranked No. 9 in the nation, is No. 18 in the 2012 Penn Monto/NFHCA Preseason Poll. The Wildcats are one of four America East Conference teams; Boston U. is 14th, followed by UNH, Albany (19) and Maine (22). Ohio State University also appears in the poll, at No. 15. The 'Cats play a total of 10 teams ranked in the preseason poll.
The Series vs UMass || UNH has a 14-18-2 lifetime record, including 4-7-1 at home, vs. UMass but the Wildcats have won two straight and five of the last seven meetings in a series that dates back to 1975. These programs have not matched up since September 2007, when the 'Cats were 1-0 overtime victors in a neutral-site game played at Vermont; one year earlier, UNH won 4-1 at UMass. In the most recent meeting here at Memorial Field (September 2005), the Minutewomen returned home with a 3-2 overtime win. UNH's most recent home win vs UMass was in 2003 (5-2). New Hampshire has a 7-8 mark in this series since 1991 – head coach Robin Balducci's first year at the helm.
The Series vs Ohio State || New Hampshire has a 2-2 lifetime record vs. Ohio State and this weekend will mark the Buckeyes' first visit to Memorial Field. These teams met three consecutive years spanning 1993-95 with the Wildcats winning 3-0 in a neutral-site game at Springfield College in '93. OSU won 2-1 at home the next year and 3-2 at Villanova in '95. The series resumed last year in Columbus and UNH upended the sixth-ranked Buckeyes, 3-1, in the season opener. In that game, Katherine Nagengast matched her career high of 12 saves and the Wildcats led 3-0 at halftime; OSU trimmed the deficit to two goals in the 46th minute, but UNH limited the hosts to just three shots the rest of the way to preserve the lead. The Wildcats finished with a 17-16 shot advantage and 11-5 edge in penalty corners.
UNH in Season Openers || The Wildcats have a 22-14-1 overall record, including 9-6 at home, in season openers. UNH has won each of its last two season openers with a 3-1 victory at Ohio State last season and a 3-1 win vs. Lock Haven here at Memorial Field in 2010. Friday's game vs. UMass will mark the third time in four years – and seventh time in nine years – that UNH opens the season at home. Furthermore, Friday's game will be the fourth time that New Hampshire faces UMass in a season opener; the 'Cats were 2-0 road victors in 1998 but lost to the Minutewomen in 1996 (4-0 at home) and 1992 (1-0 on the road). UNH has a 9-11-1 mark in season openers under head coach Robin Balducci.
UNH in Home Openers || UNH has a 24-9-2 overall record in home openers and that includes 8-6 when the home opener is also the season opener, as is the case this year with the Aug. 24 matchup vs. UMass at Memorial Field. The Wildcats have prevailed each of the last two home openers and are 4-1 the past five seasons; they defeated Brown, 5-0, last year and upended Lock Haven (3-1) in 2010. UNH is 0-2 in home openers vs. UMass; the Minutewomen won 4-0 in 1996 and 2-1 in 1991. In head coach Robin Balducci's tenure, the 'Cats have a 13-8 mark in home openers (3-5 when the home opener is also the season opener).
Scouting the Minutewomen || The UMass field hockey team, which tied atop last year's Atlantic 10 regular-season standings and was the second seed in the league tourney, was picked second in the 2012 A-10 Preseason Poll that was released last week. Senior midfielder and tri-captain Kim Young led the Minutewomen in both assists (five) and points (13) – and was tied atop the goals leaderboard – last season. Young is one of eight returning starters, which also includes two other top point producers in tri-captain Callie Sweigart (second in assists and points) and Lindsay Bowman (tied for first in goals and third in points). The only goalkeeper on the roster is freshman Sam Carlino, while the other tri-captain is senior back Elizabeth Karns.
Scouting the Buckeyes || The Ohio State University ended the 2011 season at 12-9 (4-2 Big 10) following a 5-0 first-round loss at Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Eight starters return from that team and that includes four of the top five point producers highlighted by Danica Deckard and Berta Queralt, who tied atop the leaderboard in points (24) and ranked 1-2 in goals with 11 and 10, respectively. Deckard and Queralt were All-Region Second Team selections last season and Queralt was an All-America Team honoree in both '09 and '10. The Buckeyes must replace starting goalkeeper Ally Tunitis, who played all but 70 minutes in 2011. Those minutes were played by junior Emma Voelker, who is one of four goalies on this year's roster.