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INDIANAPOLIS – The ninth-ranked University of New Hampshire field hockey team will play eighth-ranked University of Michigan in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship at the University of North Carolina's Francis Henry Stadium on Nov. 12 (2 p.m.), the NCAA announced Tuesday night.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us," 21st-year head coach Robin Balducci said. "Michigan is a very good team. They play fast, so that is a good matchup for us. And we have played them twice in the last three years, so we are a little familiar with our opponent."
UNH (17-4 overall, 4-1 America East) earned automatic qualifier status into the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the 2011 America East Field Hockey Championship tourney last weekend, when the Wildcats were 1-0 victors against 12th-ranked University at Albany in a Nov. 4 semifinal and 4-2 winners against 17th-ranked Boston University in the Nov. 6 title game at UNH's Memorial Field.
This will be New Hampshire's ninth NCAA tournament appearance overall and first since 2000. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAAs five consecutive years (1983-87) and six times overall in the 1980s; the other appearance was 1998. UNH's best finish was in 1986, when the team lost 2-1 in double overtime of the national championship game at Iowa, and its overall NCAA postseason record is 2-8.
UNH has a 2-4 lifetime record against Michigan; this will mark the first postseason meetings between the programs. These teams last met Sept. 24, 2010, when the Wolverines were 2-1 victors at home. One year earlier (Oct. 11, 2009), UNH prevailed 3-2 in overtime in a game played at Harvard University.
These teams also met in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004. Michigan won 5-0 at home in '03 and then recorded an 8-1 victory in Durham. UNH won the first meeting in this series, 6-1, in September 1991 (at Springfield, Mass.) and Michigan won 5-1 in 1996.
The winner of the New Hampshire vs. Michigan first-round game will advance to play the winner of the top-seeded University of North Carolina (20-1) vs. Ohio University (19-4) matchup (11:30 a.m.) in a Nov. 13 (2 p.m.) quarterfinal game.
New Hampshire, led by 21st-year head coach Robin Balducci and the remainder of the America East Coaching Staff of the Year (2010 and 2011), has 17 victories this season to tie the record established by the aforementioned 1986 national runner-up team.
The Wildcats have eclipsed the program's single-season benchmarks for goals (74), assists (56) and points (204). The goal record had stood since 1984 (64); the previous records for assists (54) and points (170) were set in 1994 and 2009, respectively.
UNH's prolific offense is led by America East Offensive Player of the Year Whitney Frates (Woodstock, Vt.) and fellow All-Conference First Team selection Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.), who was named Most Outstanding Player of the America East Championship.
Frates has recorded 22 goals and 11 assists for 55 points in 20 games to rank No. 4 in the nation in points per game and No. 8 in goals per game. The senior forward leads UNH in both assists and shots (73) and is tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (six). Frates ranks second in goals, points and shooting percentage (.301).
Rausch has tallied 25 goals and eight assists for 58 points in 21 games to rank No. 2 nationally in points per game and No. 4 in goals per game. The senior forward leads the Wildcats in goals, points and shooting percentage (.347), and she is tied atop the leaderboard in game-winning goals. Rausch is also tied for third in assists.
UNH went 3-0 vs. the 2011 NCAA Field Hockey Championship field. The Wildcats defeated Northeastern University (4-0, Sept. 18), Stanford University (6-3, Oct. 9) and Ohio State University (3-1, Aug. 27).
Michigan (14-6, 5-1 Big 10) earned an at-large bid to the 2011 NCAA tournament. The Wolverines defeated Iowa in the league semifinals but were denied a second consecutive tournament title with a 3-2 loss to Penn State. This is Michigan's 10th NCAA tournament appearance overall and first since 2007. The Wolverines won the 2001 national championship.
UNH IN THE NCAA FIELD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
1983 1st round Penn State ^ 1-0 loss
1984 2nd round at UConn 3-2 loss (overtime)
1985 2nd round at Boston College 1-0 loss
1986 1st round at UConn 2-1 win
2nd round at North Carolina 2-1 win
title game at Iowa 2-1 loss (double overtime)
1987 1st round MASSACHUSETTS 2-0 loss
1989 1st round Northeastern 2-1 loss
1998 1st round Boston College ^ 3-2 loss
2000 1st round at Maryland 9-1 loss
^ at UConn