|Senior Chiara Best|
DURHAM, N.H. -- Explosive offense. Staunch defense. These two elements will serve the University of New Hampshire women’s soccer team well in the 2004 season.
The attack is led by 2003 record-setting forwards Chiara Best (Rose Valley, Pa.) and Jackie Wishoski (Malden, Mass.), who became the highest scoring Wildcat duo in the 19-year history of the program with a combined total of 71 points by scoring 30 of the team’s 35 goals. As just a sophomore, Wishoski ranked 20th in the nation in both goals per game (0.86) and points per game (1.95) by shattering UNH’s single-season records for both goals (18) and points (41). Along the way, she also became the record holder in the America East Championships for single-game goals (five) and points (11) as well as tournament goals (six) and points (13). Best, a senior tri-captain, proved that her first two years foreshadowed great things to come. Last year as a junior, she too broke UNH’s single-season points benchmark with 30 points on 12 goals (No. 3 on the school’s list of single-season superlatives) and six assists (No. 5 in a single season). In honor of her overall outstanding play, Best was selected to the All-New England Second Team and the America East All-Conference First Team.
The midfield is led by senior tri-captain Katie Sullivan (Worcester, Mass.) and junior Ashlee Cieslak (Greendale, Wisc.). Sullivan started half of the 18 matches in which she played last season while Cieslak ranked third on the team in assists as she played in all 21 matches with 12 starts.
Hillary Mefferd (Portland, Ore.) immediately stepped into a starting role last year as a rookie and was the only Wildcat freshman to start all 21 matches. Classmates Kelly Collins (Manchester, N.H.) and Lia Barros (Sammamish, Wash.), as well as junior Julie Wernig (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), will once again figure into the midfield rotation.
The defensive unit is anchored by junior tri-captain Debbie Newman (Union, Conn.) and seniors Shannon Oltman (Edmonds, Wash.) and Jacquelyn Kendall (Belchertown, Mass.). Newman, a two-year starter, earned All-Conference Second Team honors in 2003 and was also named to the All-New England First Team. Oltman is a physical presence inside the penalty area at both ends of the field and Kendall is a perfect complement with her speed. Juniors Erin Margentino (Farmington, Conn.) and Lauren Engel (Pittsburgh, Pa.) both saw significant time in starting roles last year, as did classmate Lindsey Smagula (Bedford, N.H.) off the bench.
All three goalkeepers return from the 2003 team. Senior Liz MacKay (Scituate, Mass.) stepped into the role of starter a year ago and played all but 135 minutes of a possible 1852:55. She compiled a 1.46 GAA and .735 save percentage with four shutouts in 21 starts and her numbers improved to a 0.98 GAA and .743 save percentage in nine America East conference games. Sophomores Lynn Gugliuzza (Kenmore, N.Y.) and Julie Randall (E. Longmeadow, Mass.) will fight for playing time. In 135 minutes, Gugliuzza recorded a 1.33 GAA and .667 save percentage. Randall did not see any match action last year following a redshirt year in 2002.
The 2004 Wildcats welcome six newcomers – all freshman – and coach Jackson expects this class to add depth and versatility to the program. Robyn Bishop (Columbia, Md.), Rhyan Radack (Madbury, N.H.) and Marianne Rivard (West Kingston, R.I.) will be making contributions in the midfield while Adriana Gonzalez-Medina (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) adds to the attack and Katie Lutar (Guilford, Conn.) joins the backfield. Caitlyn Serafine (Canandaigua, N.Y.) could produce at midfield or back, and perhaps even as a forward, for the ‘Cats.
The 2004 schedule features three teams, including traditional rivals Dartmouth College and Boston University, that competed in last year’s NCAA tournament. UNH’s season opens yet again at the University of Vermont Classic, which features Lafayette and NCAA tourney participant Oklahoma State, on August 28. September begins with a west-coast trip to the Oregon State University Tournament to play the host school and Fresno State. The Wildcats then play their home opener Sept. 9 vs. Dartmouth and also play host to non-conference rivals Massachusetts, Harvard and Rhode Island in September before opening America East conference action Oct. 1 at home against Binghamton. UMBC, Boston University, Vermont and Hartford all travel to Durham in October before UNH closes out the regular season with three consecutive road matches vs. Maine, Stony Brook and Albany. The Wildcats look to make a repeat appearance in the America East Championships, which begin Nov. 2 with first round action and conclude Nov. 7 with the title game.