August 22, 2011

Men's Soccer Looks to Take the Final Step in 2011

DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire men's soccer team is setting the bar high this season, as the squad looks to build upon another successful campaign in 2010. The Wildcats wrapped up the season with a 9-5-6 record, recording their second straight nine-win campaign, competing in the America East tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years.

New Hampshire advanced all the way to the conference title game for the first time since 1994, holding the University of Maryland Baltimore County scoreless through regulation and both overtime periods, but eventually fell 5-4 on penalty kicks. Including their outing against the Retrievers, the Wildcats posted three consecutive shutouts in the conference tournament, as they also blanked Binghamton (Nov. 6) and Boston University (Nov. 10). The impressive mark made UNH the first team ever to record three shutouts in the conference tournament.

As a result of their impressive season, six Wildcats received America East All-Conference honors, including Goalkeeper of the Year honors. In total, four 'Cats were named to the All-Academic Team, two were selected to the All-Rookie Team, and UNH was also represented on both the All-Conference First- and Second-Team.

Despite losing a talented and productive senior class, Thompson returns 16 letterwinners to go along with 12 skilled newcomers, providing depth and a plethora of talent heading into 2011.

Sophomore Steven Palumbo (Kingston, N.H.) will provide steady offensive production upfield after coming off a stellar freshman campaign. He was instrumental in UNH's playoff run, finishing the season with a team-best eight points on three goals and two assists, earning America East All-Rookie Team honors. During his rookie campaign he was ranked 64th in the country among college freshmen by TopDrawerSoccer.com, tallying game-winning goals against Central Connecticut State (Sept. 6), Boston University (Oct. 23), and Albany (Oct. 27). Additionally, he notched an assist in New Hampshire's win over BU, while also tallying a helper in a 2-1 win over Bryant (Sept. 22).

Junior Charlie Roche (Haverhill, Mass.), who earned America East All-Rookie Team honors in 2009, is another standout who should give the 'Cats some offensive versatility this season after posting two points playing at both the forward and midfield position last year. 

New Hampshire also welcomes in newcomers Paul Bianchi (Essex, Vt.) and David Schlatter (Marlton, N.J.) who should both provide depth and talent offensively. Bianchi will join the Wildcats after leading Essex High School to the 2010 Vermont Division 1 State Championship last season. The four-year letterman was a four-time All-Metro selection, three-time All-State selection, two-time Burlington Free Press All-Star, and for his contributions to the 2010 state title run he was named an NSCAA All-American. As for Schlatter, he is coming off a senior year in which he led Cherokee High School to the New Jersey Group 4 State Title, scoring the game-winning goal in the championship game. The team captain was named Burlington County Player of the Year, earned All-South Jersey and Olympic Conference First-Team honors, and was also tabbed a Star Ledger All-State Second-Team honoree.

Senior Brad Hilton (Merrimack, N.H.) is once again expected to anchor the midfield and help set the Wildcat offense in motion this season. He earned America East Second-Team honors for the second-straight year after posting a team-best eight points on three goals and two assists. The two-time America East All-Academic selection tallied a pair of game-winning goals in back-to-back efforts against Presbyterian (Sept. 12) and Bryant (Sept. 22). He also tallied a goal in UNH's 2-1 win over Boston University (Oct. 23), helping hand the Terriers their only regular season loss of the year. Additionally, the midfielder registered an assist in a win against Bryant and in a tie versus Cornell (Sept. 10).

Junior Gustav Nilsson (Pixbo, Sweden) should also see significant playing time after seeing action in 12 games, including five starts last year. Junior Josh Bronner (Belchertown, Mass.), who earned All-Rookie Team honors in 2009, returns to the Wildcats after missing a sizable portion of the season due to injury and is expected to play a significant role in the midfield. Sophomore Robert Palumbo (Kingston, N.H.) adds immense skill to the position, appearing in 19 games including six starts, ranking third on the team in total points with four.

Junior Byron Greenwood (Portsmouth, N.H.) will look to crack the rotation this season after walking onto the squad last year. Sophomores Cody Cormier (Bangor, Maine) and Matthew Weinstein (Anchorage, Alaska) should provide depth at the position as they look to build on their freshmen campaigns.

The Wildcats also welcome Aaron Smith (Loudon, N.H.), Cameron Bielski (Dover, Mass.) and Ryan McNamara (West Nyack, N.Y.) into the fold, a trio of capable midfielders who should all factor into the rotation this year.

Smith is fresh off propelling Merrimack Valley High School to the New Hampshire Class 1 Final Four in 2010. A four-year letterman and senior captain for the Pride, Smith graduated as the high school's all-time leading scorer, recording 95 career points on 72 goals and 23 assists.

Bielski, who was a four-year starter for Dover-Sherborn High School, led the squad to the 2010 Division 3 Massachusetts State Championship as a senior. Captaining the Raiders during his junior and senior seasons, he posted 17 goals and 22 assists as a senior.

As for McNamara, he joins UNH after a four-year varsity career at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. McNamara recorded 31 goals and 34 assists during his career, propelling the Ironmen to league championships all four years and county championships in 2007 and 2009.

New Hampshire returns a talented group of backs this year after proving to be one of the most formidable defensive units in the America East last season, posting a goals against average of 0.49 and 11 shutouts, both top honors in the conference. Overall the 'Cats were equally impressive in America East play, ranking second in GAA (0.51) and third in shutouts (3).

Senior Alex Russell (Harisburg, Pa.) will anchor the backfield and should also provide solid production, after appearing in 12 games and making seven starts in 2010.

New Hampshire also returns sophomore Jeffrey Turner (Blandon, Pa.), who last season played in 18 games and made 14 starts on his way to collecting All-Rookie honors.

Aside from Russell and Turner, the 'Cats return a trio of junior backs that are expected to make a significant impact this year, a list that includes; Alex Hussein (Haverhill, Mass.), Ryan McNabb (Downingtown, Pa.) and Jordan Thomas (Mohnton, Pa.).

Hussein, who earned America East All-Rookie Team honors in 2009, is expected to help anchor the backfield after appearing in 18 games and making 16 starts last season. McNabb made a significant jump last year, earning the Glenn Aborn Award for the team's most improved player at the team's end of the year banquet. He stepped into the midfield for the injured Bronner against regional rival UMass (Sept. 25) and never looked back, starting in 13 of the remaining 14 games, while leading the Wildcats with his vocal leadership.

Thomas will make the transition to the back line and should add significant athleticism to the position after playing the last two seasons up top. Last year he provided steady offensive production, posting three points on one goal and an assist in 18 games.

Sophomore Ugochukwu Uche (Ann Arbor, Mich.) will also look to add depth and talent to the position as he comes off a freshman season that he made 10 appearances including three starts.

The Wildcats also add freshmen Elvis Lumumba (Newfields, N.H.), Clint Caso (Kinnelon, N.J.), and Connor Pauley (Londonderry, N.H.) to the mix, as the trio of newcomers all look to contribute and add depth to the Wildcat lineup this season. 

Lumumba joins the program after one year at Exeter High School. Prior to attending Exeter, Lumumba was at Essex High School in Essex Junction, Vt. where he was a three-year letter-winner, leading the team to national rankings in 2007 and 2008. Caso led St. Benedict's Preparatory School to three straight New Jersey State Prep Championships (2008-2010). For his efforts in the Gray Bees' 2009 and 2010 title runs, Caso was named to the New Jersey All-Prep First-Team both seasons. As for Pauley, he was a standout defender at Londonderry High School, leading the lancers to the state playoffs all four years, while notching 10 goals and 10 assists in his career.

In goal, the 'Cats bring in a trio of freshmen goalkeepers who will all compete for playing time this year. Blake Dawn (San Marino, Calif.) was a team captain at St. Francis High School, leading the squad to the Mission League title in 2008 and the CIF State Championship in 2009. Kyle Lewis (North Reading, Mass.) was a four-year letter-winner at Malden Catholic High School, serving as team captain and collecting Catholic Conference All-Star honors as a senior. Travis Worra (Lancaster, Pa) led Hempfield High School to the PIAA Class AAA State title in 2010, compiling a school-record 157 saves on his way to posting 19 shutouts and a goals against average of .357.

The Wildcats kick off the regular season hosting a trio of contests, starting with matchups against Rhode Island (Aug. 26) and Iona (Sept. 1) at Bremner Field. New Hampshire rounds out its homestand just three days later with a rematch against Michigan State (Sept. 4) at Lewis Fields.

The 'Cats follow up the three game slate with a trip to the University of Vermont for the Smith Barney Classic to take on Colgate (Sept. 9) and Massachusetts (Sept. 11).

Following the tournament the Wildcats hit the road for a matchup against Adelphi (Sept. 16) and then come back home to host the 22nd annual UNH Nike Fall Soccer Classic on Sept. 23 and 25 at Bremner Field. The 'Cats face off against Air Force (Sept. 23) before finishing off the tournament with a matchup against Hartwick (Sept. 25).

The Wildcats follow up with a four-game homestand, opening up conference play with a matchup against Stony Brook (Sept. 30), followed by contests against Bradley (Oct. 3), Binghamton (Oct. 8) and Hartford (Oct. 11).

UNH makes a brief stop on the road to battle against the University of Maryland Baltimore County (Oct. 14) in a rematch of last year's conference championship when the Retrievers won the title, defeating the Wildcats 5-4 on penalty kicks after two overtime periods.

After the pit stop, New Hampshire plays three of its next five games in Durham with night tilts against Holy Cross (Oct. 18), Vermont (Oct. 22) and Dartmouth (Nov. 1). UNH's two road contests during that stretch are against Boston University (Oct. 26) and Albany (Oct. 29).

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