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

It's been an interesting first two months of hockey. Already we've had to battle a team-wide flu bug, several cases of mono and our share of injury. But the leadership of our upperclassmen has kept this team moving forward and able to find ways to win tight contests.

The dynamic duo of Micaela Long and Kelly Paton has blazed the way up front. Both have been on a torrid pace this fall and creating offense every shift. Clearly these are two of the best forwards in the country and their consistency has been remarkable. Team defense has been solid and improving over the last eight weeks and our blue line continues to make big strides. Led by the nation's top offensive defenseman, junior Courtney Birchard, and the play of two upperclassmen, Courtney Sheary and Raylen Dziengelewski, we've seen marked improvement in our ability to move the puck up ice. Additionally, our 3 freshmen blueliners are all contributing each night. As in most sports, freshmen defenders have the biggest adjustment to the college game and we've been encouraged by the growth of Kailey Chappell, Katie Brock and Bryanna Farris.

As we've seen over the past several seasons, successful teams need to get contributions from everyone and this team is no exception. Of note, sophomore Sarah Cuthbert has stepped up her role this year and has become an effective two-way player. Senior Kelly Cahill continues to make her presence felt on both ends of the ice playing key roles at critical moments. She is one of the most versatile players we've had at UNH. Our young forwards have also made big improvements this fall. Most notably, Kristina Lavoie and Kristine Horn have been thrust into big roles early on and have handled themselves exceptionally well.

With 3 contests remaining before the break, we hope to continue our push to the top of Hockey East. Parity throughout the league is obvious to anyone looking at the standings and week-to-week scores. Big games with Providence and BC remain as does a final non-league contest with Dartmouth as we head into exams.

We want to wish everyone a great holiday season and we hope to see you in January at Fenway!

(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.)

The UNH Women’s Lacrosse Team, having returned from a relaxing and festive Thanksgiving Holiday break at home with family and friends, is entering the final week of the off-season (pre-preseason 2010) conditioning and skill workouts. The players have all worked very hard during November in our speed workouts, interval runs, “getting after it” in the weight room as well as in individual workouts.

Some of our strength and conditioning “Top ‘Cats” this off-season include juniors Al Bratton & Jess Cassotis, sophomore Erin Levesque and freshmen Heather Carr, Amber Casiano and Chelsea Cyester. Chelsea came into the program with a high level of experience in weight training, excelled from day one, and now works out with the veterans. Two other top conditioning stars this off-season have been junior Deb Dale and sophomore Ilana Cohen, both of whom made tremendous strides in the weight room and in speed workouts by always bringing and leading by example with their effort and “get after it and get better every moment” attitude.

The 2010 UNH Lacrosse Team is becoming even fitter, faster, stronger and fine tuning their lacrosse skills as we head into the an exciting time for us all, the 2010 UNH Lacrosse Preseason. The team has set a solid foundation for preseason and for the exciting journey ahead that will be the 2010 UNH Lacrosse Season!

This November, in addition to continuing cross-training with our Yoga & Cardio Funk classes and our new Games Room hand-eye coordination training day (highlighted by Al Bratton & Chelsea’s domination at Wii bowling), the team recently has been very busy “out and about” giving back to the community. The team participated in the annual UNH Athletic Department Food Drive with our Student Athlete-Advisory Committee (SAAC) that benefited the Cornucopia Food Pantry in Durham. In addition, the team ran in a fun 5K Jingle Bell Run in Portsmouth the weekend before Thanksgiving to benefit the local Arthritis Foundation. The race turned out to be more like a 3K, but nonetheless the players had a blast running with their jingle bells and then stayed to cheer on the other runners in the 10K race (see photo). And, just before the holiday, the team also donated its free time for local food pantries by loading (chucking) donated turkeys for delivery to needy families and food pantries around the seacoast of NH.

After making so many great strides and strength improvements in the weight room, the team – not surprisingly, led by conditioning “Top ‘Cats” Kellen Millard, Deb Dale, Jenny Simpson, Caitlin Tappan, Heather Carr, Casey Doyle, Ali Stager and Chelsea Cyester – made short work of “chucking turkeys” into the delivery trucks for seacoast families in need of a helping hand this Thanksgiving.

So the team has been quite busy in our 2009-10 “off-season” but all for good causes. We are always happy to give back to the local community and those less fortunate than us, and enjoy “passing it forward” to make our corner of the world and NH a better place.

Coming up this week, the team will be visiting a local nursing home in Durham to visit with the residents as part of a special holiday themed “social hour” with UNH Lacrosse. We are all looking forward to the visit with local seniors and to spreading some UNH Lacrosse holiday cheer. Then we will “wrap up” our 2009 fall semester for UNH Lacrosse on Friday December 11th with our annual Team Holiday Party and the very competitive and popular Wildcat Gift Grab.

Looking ahead to 2010, first we are thrilled to announce that we have signed six top recruits to NLI’s to come play for UNH Lacrosse next fall. The six hail from only 3 states, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, but we are confident that each will have an immediate impact on the field for the Wildcats next fall. A news release will soon follow regarding these signings, but the coaching staff and team are excited to welcome these six great lacrosse players, students and people to the UNH family as members of the class of 2014. Please join us in welcoming the newest Wildcats!

The 2010 UNH Lacrosse Team has made great strides on and off the field this off-season, and with the addition of senior captain Shaunna Kaplan (from Women’s Soccer) and sophomore Hayley Rausch (from Field Hockey), both key parts of our attack and midfield lineups, we are excited for the 2010 season and look forward to the challenge of continuing to build our championship-caliber team for UNH Lacrosse in 2010.

Still, we all know that “to get what we’ve never had, we must do what we’ve never done” and the team is ready for and up to the challenges that lay ahead in 2010. After making such great strides in terms of our team conditioning, fitness, and on-field play during the fall, as well as during our off-season workouts, we are all very excited for the upcoming 2010 UNH Lacrosse season. We all know that this young, talented, athletic, and extremely versatile team is ready to make a run in the America East conference and at an NCAA Tournament bid in May. The foundation has been laid and now it’s time for the Wildcats to start “RISING UP!” Let the amazing journey continue...

As always, thank you for your continued support of UNH Women’s Lacrosse. Good luck, have fun, GO BLUE! And, Happy Holidays to you and yours from all of us at UNH Lacrosse. Best wishes for the New Year too. Coming soon… it’s time for UNH Lacrosse OPENING NIGHT 2010!!!

(Michael Daly ‘90 is entering his first year as UNH women’s lacrosse head coach. He was an assistant coach with the program in the 2007-08 academic year.)

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