DURHAM, N.H. – Senior forward Whitney Frates (Woodstock, Vt.) scored two goals to propel the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire field hockey team to Friday afternoon's 3-0 victory against 13th-ranked University of Maine in America East action on UNH's Senior Day at Memorial Field.
UNH improved to 14-3 overall, 7-1 at home and 4-0 in America East with its 11th consecutive conference victory and fourth win against a nationally-ranked team this season. The Wildcats sit atop the America East standings as the lone remaining unbeaten team and will be the top seed and host of the 2011 America East Championship Tournament (Nov. 4 & 6).
Maine, which entered the game having already broke the program's single-season record for goals to lead the nation in offense (5.13 goals per game), is now 14-3, 2-2.
Fellow senior forward Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.) scored UNH's other goal that gave the home team a 3-0 lead at 65:28, just 88 seconds after Frates tallied her second of the day.
Katherine Nagengast (Westborough, Mass.), another of the six Wildcat seniors, made five of her six saves in the second half to record her third shutout of the season and the team's sixth overall in 2011. Maine counterpart Brittany Fleck also was credited with six saves, five of which came in the first half.
Maine created the first dangerous scoring chance with a penalty corner in the third minute of the game. Kaitlynn Stymiest's direct shot from the top of the circle was blocked by a UNH defender, but Courtney Glynn corralled the ball of the rebound and fired a low shot that Nagengast turned aside.
New Hampshire generated a scoring opportunity in transition. From the top-right side of the circle, Frates struck a diagonal pass intended for Rausch, but Fleck charged from her line and made a sliding poke check to prevent a shot.
Frates gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal at 23:16. From midfield, Kellie Joyce (South Pomfret, Vt.) hit a low pass to the right wing, where Frates extended her stick and continued towards goal without breaking stride. Working against two defenders, Frates blasted a low shot from the top-right side past Fleck inside the far post.
UNH began to control possession and, in the 27th minute, senior back Kyle Lyons (White River Junction, Vt.) struck a hard entry pass down the middle of the field from 30 yards. Frates, positioned five yards in front of the goal, redirected the ball over the cage.
The Wildcats held that 1-0 lead and a 9-2 shot advantage at halftime.
Maine pressured in the opening minute of the second half as Joceyln Mitchell's shot from the left wing sailed waist high towards goal but was stopped by Nagengast. The Black Bears utilized a lifted pass the length of the field to spring Holly Stewart behind the defense 10 minutes into the second half. Lyons raced back down the middle of the field to make it a 2-on-1, and blocked Stewart's centering pass. The ball went back to Stewart at the left post, however, and once again Nagengast was in position to keep UM scoreless.
Moments later, Frates drove into the circle at the other end of the field and her shot from the right wing bounded wide of the near post.
In the 48th minute, Glynn was open on the left side, but Nagengast charged and made a feet-first sliding save.
UNH was awarded a penalty corner in the 58th minute, and a low strike off Lyons' stick was turned away by Fleck.
Maine called time out at 63:40, but Frates immediately stole the ball on the right wing, advanced towards the right post and lifted a shot from five yards over Fleck, who went into a slide, across the goal line for her 20th goal of the season and ninth goal in the last four games – all against nationally-ranked teams.
The Wildcats continued to pressure and Rausch scored at 65:28 to quickly transform a one-goal lead into a 3-0 advantage. Emma Erler (New Hampton, N.H.) gained possession of a loose ball in the middle of the circle and pushed it towards the cage. Rausch, cutting across from right to left, batted the ball in front of her and utilized a reverse stick to score from close range.
Maine threatened to cut into that lead just one minute later. On a penalty corner, Stephanie Gardiner's shot from the top-left side was stopped by Nagengast, who also denied Zoe Adkins off the rebound at the left doorstep. The Black Bears earned a subsequent corner, however, and this time Gardiner's direct shot rolled wide right.
The Wildcats finished with a 14-10 shot advantage but the visitors had the 6-4 edge in corners.
UNH's 14 victories matches last year's total and is tied for the fourth-highest single-season total. The 'Cats finished with 16 wins in both 1980 and 1984 and the benchmark of 17 was established in 1986.
The Wildcats have amassed 172 points this season to break the record previously held by the 2009 squad (170 points). With 63 goals, this year's team is on the verge of breaking that single-season record of 64 set in 1984.
In addition to the aforementioned Frates, Lyons, Nagengast and Rausch, Kendall Deck (Bridgewater, N.J.) and Jess Sweeney (Accord, N.Y.) were honored as part of the pre-game Senior Day ceremony. This senior class has led UNH to postseason play all four years, including the upcoming 2011 America East tournament, as well as one conference regular-season title (2010).
New Hampshire returns to action Oct. 29 (1 p.m.) at the University at Albany and concludes the regular season Oct. 30 (3 p.m.) at Harvard University. The America East Championship tourney will be played at the site of the top seed Nov. 4 & 6.