November 10, 2009

COACHES BLOG: VOLLEYBALL AND WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY

The UNH Coaches Blog will be a weekly feature in which selected coaches share thoughts and insights about their program. This week’s blog highlights the women’s volleyball and women’s ice hockey teams.

VOLLEYBALL
This weekend, we have our last two regular season matches at Lundholm Gymnasium. Saturday at 1:00 p.m. we play Stony Brook University and on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. we host University of Maryland Baltimore County. We played both opponents earlier in the year and lost in five sets to each. We are all fighting for our standings at the end of conference and if we win both, we’ll end up taking second in the America East conference!

As the UNH Volleyball season is winding down, I would like to honor our seniors and thank them for a great four years! Sunday, November 15th, will be our Senior Day against UMBC. This class has had an incredible impact on our program and we thank them for everything they’ve given to UNH Volleyball! They leave us as a 3,000 assist club member, 3 America East All-Rookie Team selections, 3 America East All-Conference Selections, 2 Captains, and 4 wonderful Wildcats!!! Here’s to our PRIDE, POWER, PURSUIT, and PASSION!!! Thanks to Kirsten Bates, Lindsay Fogarty, Kelly Harte, and Kate Uitti.

Next weekend the conference championships will be held at the University of Albany on November 20th and 21st. Be sure to check the website to see how we’re doing if you can’t make it or follow us on Twitter at UNHVolleyball. Go Wildcats!

(Jill Hirschinger is in her 14th season as UNH volleyball head coach. She has recorded more than 200 victories at UNH and surpassed 600 total in her career.)


WOMEN’S ICE HOCKEY
After a dozen games, our young squad continues making strides and finding ways to be successful while improving. Our current 8-1-3 record includes a strong 4-0-1 record in Hockey East which has us positioned at the top heading into the second half of a busy first semester.

Offensively, seniors Kelly Paton and Micaela Long have led the charge. The two linemates have combined for 12 goals and 31 assists to lead the team and the Hockey East in scoring. For her efforts Paton was named Hockey East Player of the Month for October. Also making a statement and leading our young blueline has been junior Courtney Birchard. With 7 goals and 6 assists to date, Courtney has been a dominant force and the quarterback on our power play, which leads the nation in scoring percentage. Special teams continue to play a huge role in our early season success.

The early returns by our young newcomers have been remarkable and equally valuable to the team's success. Kristine Horn, Kristina Lavoie and Brittany Skudder have contributed to our league leading offensive production this first month while blueliners Kailey Chappell and Bryanna Farris have done an outstanding job as freshmen blueliners. It's no secret that the biggest adjustment for incoming freshmen is on the blue line and these two have responded exceptionally well.

As with all teams, there are a number of unheralded performers who have quietly made big contributions. Kelly Cahill, a senior who converted to the forward position, has been a workhorse and has 11 points after the first 12 games. Junior blueliners Raylen Dzienglewski and Courtney Sheary have carried big minutes, especially at key times in tight contests, and they have responded with some outstanding performances.

Looking ahead we have seven remaining contests before the team breaks for exams. Hockey East games with Vermont, NU, Providence and BC will give us a stern test and three non-league games with Harvard, RPI and Dartmouth will be critical as well.

With the obvious parity and balance we're witnessing across the country, the challenge we face remains whether we can achieve some degree of consistency as we close out the first half. The team has responded so far to its fair share of adversity in terms of injury and illness that has sidelined a number of our athletes this past month. Hopefully we can continue to balance improvement with success as we head into the break.

(Brian McCloskey is in his eighth year as UNH women’s ice hockey head coach. He also spent nine years as an associate head coach with the UNH men’s ice hockey team.)

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