After finishing in fifth place in AMERICA EAST for the second consecutive year and missing the conference playoffs by a mere point, the 1999 Wildcats will be looking to work their way into post-season play this fall in hopes of earning the title and the now-automatic bid to the NCAA Championship that comes with it.
UNH finished 9-8-1 overall securing another top 10 New England ranking. In the eight games decided by one goal, the 'Cats went 6-2. They were 3-0-1 in overtime, the only tie coming against eventually nationally ranked Bradley University in the opening match of the NIKE UNH Soccer Classic. They were a perfect 6-0 when scoring the first goal of the game. For the second time in as many years, UNH defeated nationally ranked Dartmouth College in overtime. They lost only one game at home - 2-1 to Towson University.
New Hampshire keeps its offensive firepower including 1998's top five scorers. Of those, both junior Adam Purcell (Barrington, R.I.) and senior Jay Heimgartner (Wethersfield, Conn.) play up front. Purcell, a Second-Team All-AMERICA EAST and All-New England selection, led the team in scoring last season with eight goals - six game-winners. Purcell's scoring streak continued this past spring when he led the 'Cat offense during their trip to Portugal with seven goals over four games.
Heimgartner, who scored his first collegiate goal and hat trick against Vermont last season, had eight points in 16 games. Partnering with Purcell up front, he will help provide one of the more dangerous offensive duos in the conference. Senior and Lebanon, N.H. native Krister Swenson earned valuable playing time in 1998 that will help him break into the lineup more consistently. His target play and work ethic will be needed on the field.
One thing that the team may miss this season is raw speed. Speedster Matthew Norton, who also earned significant time on the field last season and contributed a goal against Maine in the season finale, will not be joining the squad for his sophomore year opting instead to transfer to a school in his home state of Virginia. Sophomore Ken Hayner (Charlton, N.Y) could be utilized up front as he played forward last fall but made the transition to back last spring.
New Hampshire has been blessed with a wealth of experience in the midfield and the potential of several newcomers. Two of the team's top three scorers in 1998 - Zach Zeldner (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Andy Karam (Schenetady, N.Y) - were midfielders. Zeldner will play center midfield with fellow senior co-captain Brian Rosa (Portsmouth, R.I.), who moves from the defensive back position. They are two of the most composed players on the team and will quarterback the offense from the midfield.
Flanking the duo are Karam, a junior and the team's leading set-up man with 13 career assists to his credit, at left midfield and senior Aaron Brunner (Dumfries, Va.) at right midfield. Both have considerable experience at the position, having spent their collegiate careers there, and work primarily to help set up the offensive attack. Brunner has impressive career statistics including eight assists to his credit. Karam sets up plays on corner kicks while he and Zeldner both take indirect and direct kicks.
Sophomore Ryan DiNunzio (Kenmore, N.Y.) made an impression on the coaching staff during the Portugal trip and the ensuing spring training and could easily grab the final starting position. He played in half of the contests last year at sweeper and defensive midfield.
The coaches will also be able to rely on some significant talent coming off the bench. Of the reserves, sophomore Brent Butowsky (Reston, Va.) has the most experience having played in all but three contests in 1998. He found his scoring touch in the season finale at Maine, scoring the match's first goal, but provides needed defense in the transition.
Meanwhile, senior Corey Brown (E. Sandwich, Mass.) missed several games last year due to injury and will be looking to earn some time on the right side of midfield, as will sophomore Joe Tedesco (E. Greenbush, N.Y), who played in one game after transferring from the University of Massachusetts in the summer of 1998, at left midfield.
Heading up the list of newcomers in the midfield is Doug Lawver (Doylestown, Pa.). As a center midfielder, Lawver brings the skills he learned as captain of the F.C. Delco club team, a squad that won the U.S. Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) Under-17 National Championship and went to the finals in the Under-16 category the year before. The staff talks highly of his leadership abilities and his character, as he will be a big part of the future of the program.
UNH also signed another talented center/left midfielder out of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Josh McGeachey, who attended Loomis Chaffee School last year, won three state championships and broke numerous scoring records while earning All-America honors during his final three seasons at Cape Elizabeth High School.
Another at center midfield is Kenny Porras (Narragansett, R.I.), who starred for Rocky Hill School the last four years. He left there as the all-time assist and points leader and will bring those playmaking skills to the Wildcats. Having trained in Bolivia, he calls Santa Cruz his home.
It is clear that Lawver, McGeachey and Porras will have their opportunities to play this season in an effort to prepare them for the future as four midfielders graduate in May of 1999.
With the graduation of First Team All-New England honoree Mike Keevan and the shifting of Brian Rosa to midfield, the defense will be missing the experience that has been typical the past few seasons. The players have logged the necessary time on the field just not in the backfield.
Junior Drew Ferrigno (Southwick, Mass.) boasts two years worth of experience as a starter at the position while he also gave the team a boost on the offense with seven points, including three goals. Joining him as possible leading men are natural juniors Kevin Iarrusso (Southwick, Mass.) and Tyler Tibbs (Beaverton, Oregon) and natural forward Hayner.
Hayner has the speed to thwart the opposition's strikers on breakaways while Iarrusso and Tibbs have previously shown that they know how to tackle the opposition. With the experience they've gained in their previous seasons, the trio will be expected to step into their new roles immediately.
Two others could also break into the lineup after enduring their freshman year on the sidelines. Jonas Benson (Des Moines, Iowa) redshirted last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his senior year of high school while Seth Waltz (Waterford, N.Y) recuperated from injuries suffered in a car accident that caused him to miss seven games of his final high school season.
Primarily trained as a defensive back, rookie Tim Maguire (Londonderry, N.H.) helped his Londonderry High School team to the state finals twice, winning the title in 1996.
The graduation of Ethan Holmes leaves senior Mitch Osman (Herndon, Va.) as number one in net. Osman has three years of experience as a starter having split duties with Holmes the last three seasons. He came in as the number one keeper in 1998 but a series of injuries relegated him to the bench for the second half of the season. His presence and spectacular shot-stopping skills will be relied on more due to the young, inexperienced defense.
Senior Daniel Sirota (Massapequa, N.Y) earned his first assignment in goal during the team's trip to Portugal and shutout the Olhanense Juniors, 2-0. At 5- 11 and 185 pounds, he is an intimidating figure between the pipes. With outstanding athletic ability, junior Shaun O'Neil (Wrentham, Mass.) is set to battle Sirota as the backup keeper. Freshmen Jon Martin (Manchester, N.H.), who stopped shots for Manchester West High School and the New Hampshire Wildcats club team, also waits in the wings.