The University of New Hampshire field hockey team enters the 2009 America East Championship as the fourth seed and will battle top-seeded University at Albany in a Nov. 6 semifinal game at UA’s Alumni Turf Field. Game time is 1 p.m.
Friday’s semifinal matchup is a rematch of last year’s America East championship game – also played at UA – in which the Great Danes were 2-1 victors.
UNH has a 5-5 lifetime record, including last weekend’s 2-1 road victory, against Albany. The Wildcats have won four of six matchups in Albany.
Last Saturday, the Great Danes took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute on a goal by Suzy Clephane but New Hampshire rallied to tie the score six minutes later on Whitney Frates’ goal. UA held the edge in both shots (7-4) and penalty corners (6-2) at the half, but the score was even at 1-1. UNH took a 2-1 lead when Leah Boody redirected a Meg Shea crossing pass into the cage in the 52nd minute, and that proved to be the last goal of the game.
UNH goalkeeper Katherine Nagengast finished with seven saves. Albany starting goalie Christine Hoffman stopped one shot and surrendered a first-half goal, then Kristi Troch made two second-half saves.
The Great Danes tallied the advantage in both shots (13-8) and corners (10-5).
To put UNH’s two-goal output in perspective, Albany had allowed just two goals in 10 previous home games this season, surrendered one goal total in four league games, and they had yielded more than one goal just once in 15 games.
Prior to this year, Albany had won four straight vs. the Wildcats, who won four of the initial five meetings in the series (which started in 2001).
FIVE 'CATS FETED BY AMERICA EAST
A total of five UNH Wildcats received year-end accolades from the America East conference on Thursday, when senior forward Meg Shea was announced as Offensive Player of the Year (UNH’s Sarah Craigue received that distinction last year).
Both Shea and sophomore forward Whitney Frates were unanimous selections to the All-Conference First Team while junior midfielder Kara Connolly and sophomore back Kendall Deck were voted to the All-Conference Second Team. Melyssa Woods, a freshman midfielder, was a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie Team.
THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
UNH enters the postseason with a four-game winning streak – the second four-game winning streak of the season – and as victors in seven of its last eight games. In the current streak, the Wildcats upended nationally-ranked Albany (#17, 2-1 on Oct. 31) and Boston College (#9, 3-2 on Oct. 18).
New Hampshire last reached double digits in wins in 2003, when the ‘Cats were 10-11. The 12 wins matches the total of the 2002 team (12-8). UNH has not recorded 13+ wins since 2000 (14-8).
Prior to its 3-2 win against ninth-ranked Boston College, UNH had not defeated a nationally-ranked team since the 2002 season.
The Wildcats have scored 60 goals this season, and the program’s single-season record of 64 was set in 1984. This year’s squad, with 50 assists, is also approaching the benchmark of 54 established in 1994. The 2009 UNH Wildcats have already broken the record for points in a single season with 170; the previous mark of 164 was shared by the 1984 and 1994 teams.
UNH had the same starting lineup in 16 of 18 regular-season games – nine Wildcats started all 18 games, while two others had 17 starts.
Leah Boody was named Player of the Week by America East on Monday for her three-point effort (one goal, one assist) in UNH’s 2-1 victory at Albany on Oct. 31. That performance was on the heels of a five-point outburst against Fairfield University (Oct. 24) in which she tallied two goals and an assist; the five points marked a career high.
Meg Shea has recorded a point in all 18 games this season, and the 18-game point-scoring streak is a school record. She carries a five-game assist streak into the postseason.
Whitney Frates has scored a goal in each of the last three games, including the game-winning overtime goal at Harvard on Tuesday, and has a point in four straight games.
Cally Cooke recorded a career-high three points (1g, 1a) in Tuesday night’s 5-4 overtime victory at Harvard University.
Kara Connolly tallied a personal best of two assists in that game, while both Hayley Rausch (two assists) and Kate Collins Smyth (three points) matched career highs vs. the Crimson.
UNH will be making its 15th appearance in conference postseason play at this weekend’s America East Field Hockey Championship.
The Wildcats have a 6-13 record in the America East Championship tourney and won their lone title in 1998. Last year, the ‘Cats upended Maine, 3-2, in overtime and then fell 2-1 to Albany (the only postseason matchup between UNH ant UA).
The ‘Cats have a 5-9 mark overall in conference semifinal games and a 1-4 ledger in title games.
HOW WE GOT HERE
UNH tied with Maine for third place in the America East regular season standings by virtue of a 3-2 league record. The Black Bears won the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 6-3 win against the Wildcats on Oct. 3.
With a win Friday, UNH will advance to Saturday’s league title game that will be played at Albany’s Memorial Turf Field at four o’clock against the winner of the other semifinal matchup – #2 Boston University vs. #3 Maine.
The America East champion will be the host of a Nov. 10 NCAA play-in game against the NorPac winner. UNH has already defeated NorPac members UC Davis (2-0) and Davidson (6-0) this season.
GAME DAY: FIELD HOCKEY TRAVELS TO ALBANY FOR AMERICA EAST TOURNAMENT