DURHAM, N.H. – In 2008, the University of New Hampshire women’s soccer program will look to extend the league’s longest active America East Championship tournament appearance streak to eight straight seasons, while also finding a spot in the semifinals for a seventh consecutive campaign. UNH, which was recently selected second in the America East preseason coaches poll, has its sights set higher, however, after constantly knocking on the door and playing host to last season’s championship game, the Wildcats have raised the bar and are gunning for nothing less than their first ever America East title and a berth into the NCAA tournament. After losing six talented seniors, the road – as always – will be a tough one, but with 15 members of the 2007 team returning and seven skilled newcomers arriving in Durham, head coach Michael Jackson and his staff are as confident as ever that their 2008 squad will finally break down the door and reach its goal.
“We all know the cliché that every team is 0-0-0 right now,” Jackson said. “The season is a blank slate.”
The Wildcat offense brings back 67 of its 88 total points scored (76 percent) in what should be a scoring unit that is just as potent as the one that led the league in scoring last season. Senior co-captain Michelle Sheehan, America East’s 2007 Striker of the Year, leads the offensive attack along with fellow senior Caitlin Whelan, who was named Midfielder of the Year last season – her first in a UNH uniform. Together, the two teamed up for 42 points and will look to improve upon that mark this season. After recording a career-high six points last season at the forward spot, senior co-captain Julie O’Shaughnessy will try and carry that momentum into the 2008 campaign. Senior Sara Hourihan, who sits in ninth place on UNH’s career scoring list – tied with Sheehan at 42 points – will add more experience at the forward position. Juniors Shaunna Kaplan and Morgan Keefe will mix in their explosiveness at forward. The speedy Kaplan is coming off a season in which she was third on the team in scoring, while Keefe, who will also add depth in the midfield, made two starts, including one in the America East title game. Also seeing time at forward will be freshman Kendall Dziama, who was redshirted last season.
Joining Whelan in the midfield will be sophomores Amy Avitabile, an All-Rookie selection last season, and Cassie Guerra, who collected four points, including her first career goal. Newcomers Jordyn Krall, Stephanie Gilkenson, Carole LeBlanc and Ashley Avitabile will also add depth at midfield. Krall, a 5-foot 4-inch midfielder out of Duxbury, Mass., was a four-year varsity starter for Duxbury High School, tallying 41 goals and 53 assists in 63 career games over the course of her impressive career. Gilkenson, a 5-4 midfielder from Cranston, R.I., was a four-time Division I champion at LaSalle Academy. Gilkenson was also a member of the Cape Cod Crusaders club team for four years, helping her squad win the U.S. Club National Championship in 2007, as well as the Super-Y Regional Championship. LeBlanc comes to the women’s soccer program after spending a year with UNH’s nationally-ranked women’s ice hockey team, while the 5-6 Avitabile joins her sister after one semester at Emory University.
The largest void the Wildcats will need to fill is the one left in the backfield by the graduation of co-captains Caitlyn Serafine and Nicole Lucey. The ‘Cats will look to multiple sources to step up, starting with sophomore Marika Posehn and junior Jenna Duncan. Posehn was chosen as an All-Rookie Team honoree last season, while Duncan played in 14 games, including starts in each of the final six contests. Juniors Meg Wiley and Alex Hastings will also see time at back, along with newcomers Jill Brown, Elizabeth Curry and Taylor Finley. Brown, a 5-7 back out of Manchester, N.H., was a four-year varsity starter and two-time captain at Manchester Memorial High School. Brown was also a member of the 2007 Super-Y National ODP Select Team, as well as a 2007 Region 1 ODP 88/89 Pool player. In addition to playing for Memorial, Brown played club soccer for Seacoast United Premier and the New Hampshire ODP State Team in each of the last six years. Curry, a 5-4 back out of Bremerton, Wash., was a four-year varsity starter at Olympic High School, where she led the team in both goals and assists in her sophomore and senior seasons. Aside from her experience in the high school ranks, Curry also spent seven years with Washington Premier, an in-state club team. Finley, a 5-7 back who won two state championships in four years at Manchester West High School, also joins the Wildcat program.
In addition to the offense, another area of strength for the Wildcats should be the goalkeeping as they return both of last season’s keepers, senior Nikki Golding and junior Ally Yost. UNH put up stellar numbers in net, posting seven shutouts to go along with a 0.88 goals-against average and an .820 save percentage that ranked 67th and 76th in the country, respectively. Golding was 6-3-1 with three shutouts, a 0.88 GAA and an .816 save percentage, while Yost compiled a 5-4-1 record with four shutouts, a 0.87 GAA that was 73rd best in the nation and an .820 save percentage that ranked 77th.
 The Wildcats open the 2008 campaign with four straight road games, including trips to Holy Cross and UMass, and first-ever meetings with Villanova and Central Connecticut State at the University of Vermont Classic. The ‘Cats play four of their next five at home, including a tilt with Pac-10 member Oregon State. The conference slate begins on the road at Binghamton, followed by a home match with Stony Brook and a road game with Albany. UNH hosts UMBC and Vermont before playing road games against Boston University and Maine with a home contest versus Hartford on Senior Day in between.

UNH kicks off its season Aug. 24 when it hits the road to take on the College of the Holy Cross at 1 p.m. The ‘Cats open up at home Sept. 7 when they host the University of Rhode Island at 1 p.m.
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