DURHAM, N.H. – In 2009, 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 nine straight seasons. UNH has its sights set higher, however, after reaching its second ever title game in 2007 and then making an early exit from the tournament a year ago. As is the goal every year, the Wildcats are looking for their first ever America East title and a berth into the NCAA tournament. After losing five impact seniors, who had great careers wearing the blue and white, the route to the top of the mountain will be a difficult one. With 17 members of the 2008 team returning and 10 skilled newcomers arriving in Durham, however, head coach Michael Jackson and his staff, including new assistant Carly Draper, are confident they have the squad that can make the long climb to the top and finally reach their goal.

Morgan Keefe

A year after bringing back 67 of its 88 total points scored (76 percent), UNH returns just 32 of its 72 points scored (44 percent) this season after graduating two-time America East Striker of the Year Michelle Sheehan and one-time Midfielder of the Year Caitlin Whelan. The bulk of those points come from senior Shaunna Kaplan, who will be counted on to help carry the scoring load in 2009. After increasing her point total from five, to nine, to 12 in each of her first three years, the Wildcats hope Kaplan is in line for a breakout senior year. The explosively-quick Kaplan tallied three goals and six assists last season, tying for the team lead in assists – ranking second in the conference in that category – and placing third on the squad in both goals and points. Joining Kaplan up front will be senior captain Morgan Keefe, who tallied both her first collegiate goal and assist last season en route to three points in 18 games. Another captain, sophomore Jordyn Krall, will also see the majority of her time at the forward spot. Krall’s versatility gives the Wildcats greater flexibility as she can also play in the midfield, and filled in at back last year in a handful of her 18 games. Three newcomers should help the ‘Cats reload at the forward spot, with freshman Drea Nogueira and sophomore transfers Alyssa Michel and Brooke Duchaney all arriving in Durham. Nogueira, 5-foot-4-inch from New Bedford, Mass., was a four-year varsity starter at New Bedford High School, where she captained the squad and was named the Standard Times Player of the Year her senior year. Michel, 5-7 from Bellingham, Wash., player her freshman year at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., where she was named to the All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Third Team after ranking second on her team in goals (6) and points (13). Duchaney, meanwhile, played her freshman season at Bryant University, where she tied for second on the team in goals (3) and was third on the squad in both points (8) and assists (2), and also notched Bryant’s first Division I goal.

Amy Avitabile

Junior Amy Avitabile will lead the midfield this season after notching eight points on her first collegiate goal and a team-high six assists, which were second most in the conference. Avitabile started all 15 games she played, missing the final three contests after a knee injury that she will be fully recovered from when UNH opens the season. Fellow juniors Cassie Guerra and Ashley Avitabile also return after playing in 16 and 17 games, respectively, last season, to add depth to the midfield. Sophomore Stephanie Gilkenson returns to the midfield after a solid freshman campaign in which she was named to the All-Rookie Team after tallying five points on five helpers in 18 games. Carole LeBlanc returns for her sophomore year after she tallied four points on two goals in 15 games during her first go-around with the Wildcats. Alli Rozelle re-joins the UNH midfield for her sophomore season after taking 2008 off. Rozelle appeared in 13 matches as a freshman for the ‘Cats during their run to the title game in 2007. UNH also welcomes impact freshmen Monique Lamotte and Allie Coppenrath into the women’s soccer family. Lamotte, 5-6 from Blackstone, Mass., played four years of varsity soccer at Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla., where she holds records for both goals in a career (63) and goals in a season (22), and was the squad’s MVP in the 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons. Coppenrath, 5-5 from Green Harbor, Mass., spent four years as a varsity player at Marshfield High School, where she helped lead the squad to the South Sectional finals her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and was a Patriot Ledger All-League selection in 2008.

Ally Yost

After gaining a year of valuable experience and adding a handful of talent, the Wildcat defensive unit should be much improved from 2008. Seniors Jenna Duncan, Alex Hastings and Meg Wiley all return after playing in 11, 17 and 14 games, respectively. Duncan, who can also play in the midfield, missed a stretch of time due to injury. Junior Marika Posehn also returns to the backfield, but could see more time a midfield this year, where she saw the majority of her time during her 2007 All-Rookie campaign. Posehn started 16 of the 18 games she played in last season. Jill Brown leads a class of three sophomores who are returning to the backfield, including Taylor Finley and Kelly Mooney. Brown played in 15 games last season and Finley appeared in 10 matches, while Mooney sat out the season after seeing action in five contests her freshman year. The Wildcats also added three impact freshmen to the backfield over the offseason in Kelly Spencer, Chelsey Tewell and Lyndsay Pallotta. Spencer, 6-0 from Exeter, N.H., played four years of varsity soccer, including the past three at Exeter High School and won a pair of Class L State Championships her sophomore and junior seasons. Spencer was an All-New England selection in 2008, as well as a First Team All-State selection in both 2007 and 2008. Spencer was also rated the fourth Best High School Athlete in New Hampshire and Vermont – and the top female athlete – by Varsity Magazine in December 2008. Tewell, 5-4 from York Harbor, Maine, was a four-year varsity forward at York High School, where she did not miss a single game during her high school career. Tewell, who graduated from YHS with 54 goals and 36 assists, was named captain her senior year before finishing with team MVP honors after leading her squad in scoring for the third straight season. Pallotta, 5-5 out of Hanover, Mass., played four years of varsity soccer at Hanover High School, where she was a Patriot League All-Star in both 2006 and 2008.

The Wildcats will have some new faces in net this season, but return senior tri-captain Ally Yost, who will handle the majority of duties this season. Yost played in eight games last year, compiling a 1.38 GAA to go along with a .792 save percentage. The ‘Cats surround Yost with a pair of freshmen, Sarah Dobush and Erin Jackson. Dobush, 5-10 from Pickering, Ontario, recently finished training at Ontario’s National Training Centre and also wrapped up her second season with the Oshawa Kicks, whom she helped lead to Ontario Cup and OYSL U-18 Championships. Dobush was previously a member of the Toronto Lynx Club, and also trained with their W-League team. Jackson, 5-8 from Wakefield, Mass., was a four-year varsity member at Wakefield Memorial High School, where she captained the squad in both 2007 and 2008, and was also the team MVP in 2008. The team was a Division 2 North Finalist in 2007, when Jackson was a Middlesex All-League Goalie and Eastern Mass All-Star. Jackson was also a Middlesex League All-Star in both 2007 and 2008.

With a solid core of hungry, returning players and an influx of fresh new faces, the Wildcats, who were picked fourth in the America East Pre-Season Coaches Poll, are in prime position to make another run at an America East title in 2009.

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