FIELD HOCKEY EYES RETURN TO AMERICA EAST CHAMPIONSHIPS
DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats look forward to the 2007 field hockey season as they bring some new experiences to the team. Goalkeeper Margaux Shute and midfielder Brooke Bercari were selected to compete for the New England High Performance Team at the National Championship in Virginia Beach (Va.) this past summer. Shute was able to back up the world’s No. 1 goalkeeper, Amy Tran. In addition, Cally Cooke and Kara Napolitano made the New England Squad and were able to practice with the team through the spring and early summer.

The Wildcats welcome a new assistant coach, Steve Simpson, who has brought extensive international and collegiate experience to the team. He was part of Maryland’s dynasty and also coached at UMass; Simpson is an active international official. He and head coach Robin Balducci went to Edinburgh to watch the European U-18 Championships in July.

The youth of the past two seasons has matured into a veteran group that boasts 18 returning letterwinners and nine returning starters from a year ago.

“We finished the 2006 season with a young squad that received a lot of experience and in the spring those players demonstrated abilities to take the next step,” Balducci said. “I’m very pleased with both the individual and team progress as we approach the upcoming season.”

DEFENSE
    “We are returning our entire backfield, including a pair of fifth-year seniors in Margaux Shute and Sam Geary,” Balducci said. “Our defense should be solid and will give us the opportunity to win and have a successful season.”

Shute, an NFHCA All-Academic Team honoree every year as a Wildcat, has been the cornerstone of UNH’s defensive unit each of the past two seasons as the starting goalkeeper, and that will remain the status quo in 2007. Last season, Shute ranked No. 5 in the nation in saves (150) and No. 8 in saves per game (8.33). She started all 18 games and played most of the minutes. In five America East conference games, Shute recorded a 2.85 GAA with a .741 save percentage; she recorded double digits in saves six times, including a season-high 16 against nationally-ranked Providence College. As a sophomore in ‘05, Shute played every second in goal for the ‘Cats.

Sam Geary, another Wildcat who has garnered NFHCA All-Academic Team every year she has been in Durham, is a three-year starter. An America East All-Conference Second Team selection last season, Geary started all 18 games and once again was an integral part of both penalty corner units. Geary recorded two points, both on assists, last season to match her 2005 offensive production.

Kara Napolitano is another returning letterwinner with a wealth of experience who makes New Hampshire’s defensive unit a formidable one. Napolitano started all 17 games in which she played last year after earning America East All-Rookie Team honors in the 2005 season.

Cally Cooke immediately stepped into a starting role as a freshman last season. She, as well as Napolitano, were key components in the defensive penalty corner unit.

Kiera Williams also immediately stepped into a starting role in her first year as a Wildcat (after redshirting a year at UConn in ‘05).

Stefanie Simeone adds two years of experience to the corps and Kim McGinness is a new addition to the group.

Mollie Ryan will join the 2007 Wildcats as a walk-on freshman and serve as Shute’s understudy in goal.

“With our wealth of experience and maturity keeping play settled in the back half of the field, we will be able to play aggressively,” Balducci stated.

TRANSITION

    Brooke Bercari emerged as a starter in the 2006 season after playing a vital role off the bench for the ‘Cats as a rookie in ‘05. She sees the field well and possesses the skills to distribute the ball. These traits make Bercari a critical linchpin in the midfield who links the defensive unit and the speedy forwards.

Hannah Colestock has played in 10+ games each of her first two seasons as a Wildcat. Johanna Stemmler will bring her extensive international experience to the Wildcats from Germany and Devan Weed had an important experience in helping her Boston team to a second-place finish at the Futures National Tournament during the summer.

They, as well as Michelle Montalbano, Mackenzie Granger and newcomer Kara Connolly – who is coming off a championship season at Lakeland High School – will add depth to the transition game.

ATTACK
    “On offense, we need to fill the hole left by Emily Colton and we will look for a healthy Sarah Craigue to lead our attack with senior Shauna Sellenger in 2007,” Balducci said. “We have a lot of speed and quickness, which lends itself to play an up tempo attack.”

Sarah Craigue
, with an impressive rookie year in ‘05 and an injury-plagued ‘06, is expected to have a breakout season in 2007. She finished strong in 2006 with two goals in the last four games of the season and had an excellent spring.

Shauna Sellenger is a senior and one of eight New Hampshire natives on the Wildcats’ roster. She became an offensive presence as a sophomore in the 2005 season, when she scored five goals as part of the offensive penalty corner unit and led the team in shooting percentage.

Megan Shea garnered America East All-Rookie Team accolades a year ago and is UNH’s top returning goal scorer and point producer despite starting just five of 13 games; she recorded five goals and two assists for 12 points in ‘06.

Jen Mooney is another speedy forward and, as a reserve off the bench, she brings three years of experience to the squad.

Sophie Ostroski and Leah Boody give depth to the position, which will also include incoming freshmen Allison Barnaby, Lyndsey Natale and KT Rich. Natale prepared for her rookie year at UNH with a three-week professional training camp in Wisconsin.

THE SCHEDULE
    New Hampshire opens the 2007 season at home for the first two weeks. The Wildcats play host to St. Louis University on Sunday, August 26th at Memorial Field -- UNH alum Marcie Boyer returns to Durham as the SLU head coach -- then Colgate University (Friday, August 31st) and Rider University (Sunday, September 2nd) travel to Durham the following weekend.

UNH hits the road for a game at Harvard and then will play Virginia and UMass at the University of Vermont tournament on September 8-9. The ‘Cats then return home for back-to-back games against University of the Pacific and College of the Holy Cross on September 15-16.

New Hampshire spends the rest of the month on the road with a road trip to the state of Michigan – to play Central Michigan (September 22nd) and Michigan State (September 23rd) – and a pair of games in Boston; the Wildcats open the America East conference portion of their schedule September 28th at Boston University, then play longtime regional rival Northeastern University on the 30th.

October begins with a home game under the lights of Memorial Field against conference rival Maine on Saturday the 6th. The ‘Cats then travel to Dartmouth College twice in a week’s span – to play the Big Green on the 10th and Davidson College on the 16th. In between, UNH passes by Hanover, N.H. on its way to Burlington, Vt. to face another conference rival, Vermont on the 13th.

America East newcomer Fairfield University comes to town Saturday, October 20 and the Wildcats will celebrate Senior Day the following day against another regional rival, Boston College. UNH closes out the regular season in the last weekend of October on the road against Albany and Sacred Heart.

The 2007 America East Championships will be held November 2-4  at the site of the top seed, and the tourney winner receives an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
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