DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire women's soccer team, which extended its all-time league record streak of consecutive America East Championship tournament appearances to 10 last season, has been the epitome of consistency over the past decade. Now, the program is primed to take the next step in 2011 and elevate consistent play into top-level success. With a strong defensive core anchored by solid goaltending, the veteran leadership of 18 returning letterwinners in addition to seven promising newcomers, head coach Michael Jackson and his staff fields a team that has all the makings of a title contender.
Despite the graduation of leading goal scorer Carole LeBlanc (4), the Wildcats return 73 percent (49 of 67 points) of their offense, including the two top leading point scorers in Chelsea Kuss and Monique Lamotte. Kuss enjoyed an impressive first season as a sophomore transfer, pacing the team with 12 points and six assists en route to earning America East All-Conference Second Team honors. Lamotte, who also earned second team accolades, will once again be counted on to shoulder a bulk of the scoring after she registered eight points on a team-high 40 shots last season. The junior midfielder was even more dangerous in postseason play as she scored the team's lone goal in a tight 2-1 loss at Albany in the quarterfinals and was selected to the America East All-Championship Team for her efforts. Senior co-captain Stephanie Gilkenson, who registered six points last season, as well as fellow senior Alli Rozelle, will both be counted on for experience and balance in the midfield. Junior Allie Coppenrath, in addition to sophomore Kristi Zarrilli, will provide more midfield depth with Elizabeth Curry and Colleen Murray. The 5-foot-5-inch Curry returns for her second stint at New Hampshire as a sophomore transfer from Western Washington. In Curry's lone season at UNH as a freshman in 2008, the Washington native appeared in 13 contests including eight starts. The 5-foot-3-inch Murray lettered in soccer at Bedford High School and is coming off a senior campaign in which she took home first-team all-state honors. Murray, who was a second-team all-state selection, claimed team MVP honors as a junior and led the team in scoring during her sophomore, junior and senior campaigns.
Assisting Kuss up front will be a trio of versatile attackers as seniors Alyssa Michel and Brooke Duchaney, as well as junior Drea Nogueira, make up one of the strongest front lines in the conference. Michel, who will serve as a co-captain this fall, ranked second on the team in assists last season with three helpers, while Duchaney finished second on the team with two game-winning goals. Nogueira chipped in three tallies en route to eight points for a breakout season in 2010 and will look to build on that mark for an even better junior campaign. Newcomers Meghan Ledwith, Jenna Shaddock and Brianna Spitler will also see time at the forward position this season. The 5-9 Ledwith was a four-year letterwinner at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Yardley, Pa., where she totaled 53 goals and 28 assists in her career. Shaddock, a native of Nova Scotia, spent last year in England as a member of the Chelsea Ladies FC reserves and led the club with 17 goals. The 5-foot-6-inch Spitler was a four-year letterwinner at Montoursville High School in Pennsylvania, pacing her team to a state championship in 2008 as well as a pair of Heartland League titles in 2007 and 2010.
The 'Cats bring back five players from last years backline, including senior co-captain Kelly Mooney, who will once again anchor a defense that ranked fourth in the conference in shutouts (4), fifth in goals against average (1.28) and sixth in goals allowed per game (1.35) last season. Mooney, an America East All-Conference First Team selection, started all 20 games and notched the first point of her career with an assist at Albany in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Seniors Jordyn Krall and Taylor Finley, along with junior Kelly Spencer, will join Mooney as the core of the defensive unit in 2011. Krall started 17 contests last fall and helped on the offensive end with a pair of goals. Spencer and Finley will be counted on for veteran presence in the back after the duo started a combined 25 games last season. Sophomore Kelsi O'Neil, who saw a good amount of playing time as a rookie, and senior Jill Brown will continue to add depth on defense with the help of three rookies. Freshmen Hannah Blondin and Jordan Logue will look to make an immediate impact to the backline in their first go-around with the club. The 5-6 Blondin was a four-year letterwinner at East Hampton High School, where she was an All-Conference selection from 2008-10 and was named a Scholar-Athlete as a senior. The 5-7 Logue was a four-year letterwinner at Bishop Feehan High School, where she captained the squad as a senior and helped her program establish a 72-8-8 record with 39 shutouts during her career.
The Wildcats are filled with plenty of promising talent at the goalkeeper position, starting with sophomore Erica Correa, who played every minute of every game as a rookie last season. Correa, who was named to the America East All-Rookie Team, now has some experience under her belt and is poised for a strong second season after she led the conference in saves (113) and ranked third in both save percentage (.807) and shutouts (4) in 2010. Juniors Sarah Dobush and Erin Jackson will serve as backup netminders to Correa and will add some veteran experience between the pipes.
With a talented blend of experienced returnees and promising young players, the Wildcats are set to take the next step in 2011 and not only extend their record America East tournament appearance streak to 11 games, but go the distance in the process, capture a conference crown and qualify for the NCAA tournament.