October 2, 2009

WOMEN’S HOOP SETS SIGHTS HIGH HEADING INTO 2009-10

DURHAM, N.H. - Entering her third year at the helm of the University of New Hampshire women's basketball program, head coach Kristin Cole begins the 2009-10 season with all the pieces aligned to make a run at the America East competition. With the return of every player from last year's team, as well as the addition of high impact newcomers, the Wildcats look poised to become a true contender in the conference.  

The Wildcats will once again look to the veteran leadership of senior forward Candace Williams (Norfolk, Mass.) and senior guard Amy Simpson (Waterford, Conn.) to lead the team.

Williams is fresh off her best season in white and blue becoming a staple in the Wildcat lineup starting every game last season. She made the most of her time on the court becoming one of just two players in the America East conference to rank in the top three in both scoring (16.1) and rebounding (8.1). Her efforts also led to her being selected to the America East All-Conference Second Team, becoming only the tenth player in program history to do so.

Simpson also started in all 31 games for the Wildcats last season, averaging a career-high 11.5 points per game, a total that ranked second on the team and 12th in the conference. She also ranked second on the squad in assists and steals with 90 and 29, respectively. Simpson poises the greatest threat beyond the arc as she drained the best single-season mark for 3-pointers made in program history with 62 last year. Her most prolific performance came against Colgate (12/5) when she nailed six 3-pointers to tie a UNH single-game record.

Perhaps the biggest addition to this year's squad is the return of Denise Beliveau (Framingham, Mass.), who sat out last season due to injury. In her first season in 2007-08, she was the only freshman to play in 28 of 29 games, averaging 10 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, which topped the America East freshmen class. In fact, her performance was so impressive that she was named to the America East All-Rookie team and became the third player in UNH history to win the Rookie of the Year award. However, she didn't just stand out in scoring, as she also tallied the second best totals in rebounds and assists with 174 and 55, respectively.

Anchoring the ‘Cats in the middle is senior Racheal Fowler (Glassboro, N.J.). Fowler, started in all 31 games last season, finishing with 5.9 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game, leading the team in field goal percentage (.513; 79-154).

Fellow senior Chrissy Hall (Northbridge, Mass.) will also be called upon as she looks to build on a relatively productive 2008-09 season in which she played in all 31 games and started in 13. Her defensive prowess became truly evident last season as she ranked second on the team in blocks with 22, while also adding 22 steals. In addition, she averaged 3.6 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game.

The Wildcats fill out the frontcourt with a plethora of experience and talent that is sure to provide solid depth and production throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Juniors Jill McDonald (Middlebury, Vt.), Kate Early (Corning, N.Y.) and sophomore Kelley Flynn (Hopinkton, N.H.), provide a solid veteran presence and are sure to make an immediate impact this season.

McDonald should prove to be a solid piece to the puzzle this season as she provides size and a solid defensive presence in the middle. After playing in all 31 games, including one start, McDonald emerged as a defensive stopper for the ‘Cats as she racked up a team-high 47 blocks. Her average of 1.5 blocks per game not only was a team high but ranked fourth in America East. She also notched 3.5 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Early played in all 31 games, including 14 starts for the ‘Cats last season. She ranked second on the team in field goal percentage (.493; 34-69), giving New Hampshire a solid overall lift with an average of 2.7 points per game. More importantly, she collected the third most rebounds and steals on the team with 130 and 23, respectively.  

Rounding out the frontcourt for the Wildcats is Flynn who joins the Wildcats after playing in 21 collegiate games with the Richmond Spiders. Flynn is sure to make an impact with the ‘Cats under the basket as her 6-5 frame will give the Wildcats a presence in the middle. The McDonald's All-American nominee led Hopkinton High School to the State Semifinals and State Championships. She ranked as a top-10 player in Varsity New England Magazine for two straight years and was rated the 48th-best center in the country by the All-Star Girls Report Recruiting Service.

The backcourt will feature a dynamic duo of young talented point guards as returning starter Abigail LaRosa (Hampton, N.H.) and Kelsey Hogan (Nashua, N.H.) should provide stability within the rotation.

LaRosa played and started in all 31 games for the Wildcats last season posting an average of 6.4 points per game, while averaging a team best 3.0 assists per game and 3.2 rebounds per game. The sophomore didn't fall short defensively either, as she led the team in steals with 35 and chipped in with six blocks.

As for Hogan, her season was cut short last year due to injury, but in the limited time she saw the court she provided a great offensive spark for the Wildcats. Starting in the three games in which she played, Hogan averaged 8.0 points per game along with 3.3 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game. The freshman's best game came against Bryant (11/14) when she notched a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds against the Bulldogs.

Sophomore Lauren Wells (West Chester, Pa.) adds depth for the ‘Cats as she looks to build on a promising freshman campaign. Playing in 29 games for New Hampshire last season she posted 5.1 points per game and 1.9 rebounds per game. Her potential was best exhibited when she poured in a season high 13 points to go along with two assists, a block and a steal against Vermont (2/1).

Freshmen Diamon Beckford (Philadelphia, Pa.), Jilliane Friel (Durham, N.H.), Jackie Lyons (Reading, Mass.) and Cari Reed (Oswego, N.Y) will all compete for playing time.

Beckford, who played at Upper Darby High School, became the fourth player in the school's history to surpass the 1,000-point marker, in her junior year. In her senior season she won league MVP and surpassed the 1,000 mark in career rebounds. The three-time All-Delco first-team member was a third-team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania selection her junior year, as well.

Friel, who comes from a long line of New Hampshire basketball tradition, is the daughter of the late Gerry Friel, the winningest coach in the history of the UNH men's basketball program. The three-time Foster's Daily Democrat Basketball Dream Team member won the league Player of the Year award and surpassed the 1,000-point mark in her senior season. As a junior she led the Bobcats to the state quarterfinals and was named a second-team all-state basketball selection. In 2006, she led the Bobcats to an undefeated record (22-0) on their way to winning the Class I state championship.

Lyons compiled over 1,000 points during her career at Reading High School, including a total of 436 points during her senior season. During that season she was named North Section Player of the Year and helped lead the Rockets to a Middlesex League Championship. In 2007, she was the conference's leading scorer with an average of 18.1 points per game. During that season she was selected to the Middlesex All-League team and named the Woburn Times Chronicle Player of the Year.

Reed, who scored over 1,000 while playing at Oswego High School, was a three-time selection to both the All-League first-team and the All-CNY (Central New York) team. She was selected as the conference Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and was also a member of the all-state ninth-team.

With a solid group of core players, increased depth and a load of young talent, the Wildcats have set themselves up not only for a successful campaign in 2009-10 but to become a top talent in the America East for many years to come.

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