DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire field hockey team has won three consecutive America East regular-season titles (2010-11-12) with a combined conference record of 14-1 that included a perfect 5-0 in both 2010 and 2012. UNH, the league tournament champion in 2011 and runner-up in both '10 and '12, was honored as Coaching Staff of the Year each of those three seasons.
Head coach Robin Balducci, in her 23rd year at the helm of the Wildcats, welcomes back 10 starters and 16 letterwinners overall from last year's 12-8 squad that exceeded expectations from a preseason prediction of fourth place in America East. She also welcomes four newcomers to the program.
On offense, the 'Cats bring back 52 of 59 goals (88%) and 32 of 39 assists (82%) for 136 of 157 points (87%) with the top seven goal scorers, top two (and 7 of 8) in assists and top five in points all returning to this year's lineup. Five starters return on defense, including the goalkeeper.
In addition to continuing its conference success, UNH is looking to extend its streak of consecutive double-digit win seasons to five – that feat has not been accomplished since the 1983-87 seasons.
New Hampshire, ranked No. 20 in the NFHCA Preseason Poll and second in the America East conference preseason poll, begins its quest for a return to the NCAA tournament Aug. 31 against second-ranked University of Maryland at the Conference Cup, which is being held by Temple University.
UNH enters the 2013 season with two Wildcats – Hannah Richard (Hopkinton, N.H.) and Meg Flatley (Townsend, Mass.) – who emerged as consistent goal scorers a year ago. And four other sophomores also return to the front line of attack.
Richard, who recorded a total of three points in her first two seasons (39 games) as a 'Cat, had a breakout junior season in '12 with a team-leading 14 goals and 32 points to garner America East All-Conference Second Team recognition; she also led the team in shooting percentage (.389). She ranked third in the conference in both goals per game (0.70) and points per game (1.60), while in conference-only stats she was second in gpg and third in ppg. Richard recorded a point in 11 of 18 regular-season games – with a goal in 10 – that included a team-best seven-game point-scoring streak with a goal in five consecutive games.
Flatley utilized her speed to tally nine goals and three assists for 21 points as a redshirt freshman in 2012, when she was selected to the America East All-Rookie Team. She ranked third on the team in both goals and points, as well as ninth in the league in both gpg and ppg; in other stats, Flatley was second on the squad in shooting percentage at .321. Flatley, who had a team-high four game-winning goals (including the one in overtime vs. Fairfield in the America East semifinals), scored a goal five consecutive games early in the season to prove herself a scoring threat.
Lynne Lehman (Landisburg, Pa.) joined Flatley on last year's All-Rookie Team. She played all 20 games with eight starts and tallied eight points on four goals. Lehman struck twice in conference play with a goal against Vermont and the game's only goal against Boston University. Meg Carroll (Mansfield, Mass.) equaled Lehman's goal output and also recorded three assists for a total of 11 points in 19 games (11 starts); with those stats, Carroll ranked second among UNH freshmen in goals, assists and points.
Emma Compagna (Canton, Mass.) played all 20 games a year ago as a part of the rotation off the bench – she was in the starting lineup once. Taylor Rideout (Barrington, R.I.) also had one start to her credit as a rookie in '12 and she played in 12 games overall.
The midfield, patrolled by seniors Casey Pohlmeyer (Millersville, Md.) and Melyssa Woods (Glens Falls, N.Y.) as well as junior Kellie Joyce (South Pomfret, Vt.), is small in number but not in talent or experience (combined eight years in the starting lineup) – and it also includes Molly Heaney (East Kingston, N.H.), who started 19 games last year as a freshman.
Pohlmeyer was selected to the America East All-Rookie Team in 2010, followed that with an even stronger sophomore campaign and was voted to the America East All-Conference First Team as a junior in 2012. In addition to her defensive prowess – including the defensive penalty corner unit – Pohlmeyer is a big point producer on offensive penalty corners. She recorded a team-high nine assists and also scored five goals as part of 19 points to rank fourth in both of those statistics. With those numbers, Pohlmeyer ranked third in the conference in assists per game; in conference-only games, she was atop the leaderboard in assists/game, fourth in points/game and 10th in goals/game.
Woods incurred a season-ending injury prior to the start of the 2012 season; she was granted a redshirt season and is back in 2013 for her senior year after competing at the USA Field Hockey Women's National Championship this past May. Woods immediately stepped into a starting role upon arriving in Durham and has America East All-Rookie Team (2009) on her résumé. She recorded five points (two goals, one assist) as a junior in 2011 to duplicate her personal-best numbers from that freshman year.
Joyce is another Wildcat midfielder who has garnered America East All-Rookie Team recognition, and she was an All-Conference Second Team selection last year as a sophomore when she tallied 17 points on five goals and seven assists. She tied for second in assists and fourth in goals, and was fifth in points; in the conference, Joyce ranked fourth in assists. Joyce was Woods' teammate at the USA Field Hockey Women's National Championship last May and then competed at the USA Field Hockey U-21 Women's National Championship in June.
Two newcomers will look to enter the playing rotation. Gianna Bensaia (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) garnered All-America Second Team recognition as a senior at Lakeland High School, where she was a three-time All-State selection and a four-time Class B state champion. Aggie Sutherland (Dauphin, Pa.) was named a Mid Penn Big 11 selection last year as a senior at Central Dauphin, where she was a two-time Mid Penn All-Star. Sutherland's other senior accolades included Commonwealth Player of the Year and All-State First Team.
The defensive unit also boasts a wealth of talent and experience led by fourth-year starter Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), who garnered All-America Third Team recognition last year as a junior. Bozek's other accolades in 2012 included All-Region First Team, America East Defensive Player of the Year and All-Conference First Team. In addition to quarterbacking the defensive unit – she recorded all four of UNH's defensive saves – Bozek was one of the team's top point producers by virtue of her skills on the offensive penalty corner; she ranked second on the team in both goals (10) and points (24). She recorded a point each of the last four games of the season and in 13 of 20 games overall with a goal in nearly half the games (9 of 20). Bozek competed alongside Joyce at the USA Field Hockey events this past May and June; and back in January, she won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. Senior Women's National Indoor Field Hockey Team.
Both Maegan Grew (Hampton Falls, N.H.) and Chandler Giese (Trappe, Pa.) started all 20 games last season and Grew also started all 22 games as a freshman in '11. This duo, combined with Bozek, backboned the Wildcats to the second-ranked defensive team in conference play with a 1.10 goals-against-average in five America East games.
Jackie Hozza (Sinking Spring, Pa.) is the only newcomer to the defensive unit. The 2013 graduate of Wilson West High School was an Academic All-America Team selection as a senior captain, when she was also named to the All-State Second Team and All-County First Team as well as the Berks County Outstanding Defensive Player.
Carlie Tarbell (Wakefield, Mass.) proved more than durable in her first year as a starter. As a sophomore in 2012, Tarbell started all 20 games and played 1500:27 of a possible 1504:20 (99.7%). She compiled a 12-8 record with a 2.24 GAA and .727 save percentage to rank No. 25 in the nation in saves per game (6.40). Tarbell ranked second in the conference in minutes, saves (128) and saves per game as well as third in save percentage. In five America East games, she went 5-0 with a 1.10 GAA and .833 save percentage to rank atop the leaderboard in save percentage and minutes. That included a nine-save shutout victory against Boston University that secured at least a tie of the conference regular-season title.
Lexy Cole (Belgrade, Maine) will once again serve as an understudy to Tarbell. Cole, in her collegiate debut, played the final 3:53 against University of the Pacific and did not allow a goal to record a perfect 0.00 GAA; she did not face a shot on goal. Melissa Rize (Severn, Md.) was a highly-decorated senior captain at Archbishop Spalding. With an .864 save percentage and 10 shutouts, her honors included Academic All-America Team and All-State First Team.