BOSTON - The University of New Hampshire field hockey team, which finished atop the 2000 conference standings, finished as runner-up in the league tourney and advanced to the NCAA Championship for the second time in three years, garnered four first-place votes and a total of 75 points to place No. 1 in the 2001 America East Preseason Coaches' Poll, which was released Wednesday.
"Our selection as the preseason favorite speaks volumes about the respect the UNH program has earned because of the high level of success we have attained in recent years," said 11th-year head coach Robin Balducci, who was named America East Coach of the Year in 2000 and 1998.
New Hampshire returns 12 letterwinners from last year's 14-8 squad, including senior tri-captains Kaitlin Carney (Farmington, Conn.), Cameron Schmitz (Cos Cob, Conn.) and Tami Street (Kingston, N.Y.). Carney and Schmitz anchor the solid defensive unit while Street, who tied for the team lead in assists a year ago, will lead an explosive attack.
Two other key players on offense are juniors Marcie Boyer (Dillsburg, Pa.) and Kristen Weldon (Avon, Conn.). Boyer, a Northeast Region All-America First Team selection in 2000, is the team's top returning scorer. Weldon and Street rank second to Boyer among returning players.
There are three homegrown products on this year's New Hampshire roster. Sophomore goalkeeper Julie Munson (Dover, N.H.) did not see any game action last fall but is fighting for the starting job this season. Jennie Peyser (Rye, N.H.) saw limited action in the backfield as a rookie but is expected to play a prominent role in 2001. Newcomer Heidi Anderson (Hampton Falls, N.H.) should make immediate contributions to the offense.
UNH is followed in the poll by Boston University (71 points, three first-place votes), Northeastern (67, two), Delaware (59, one) and Drexel (51). The bottom half of the poll is filled by Maine (40), Hofstra (30), Albany (21), Vermont (20) and Towson (16).
New Hampshire opens the regular season Aug. 25 (1 p.m.) at William & Mary. The home opener at Memorial Field for the Wildcats is scheduled for Aug. 31 against UMass. Game time is 4 p.m.