DURHAM, N.H. - Last fall saw the University of New Hampshire men's soccer team (7-8-3 overall, 5-4-2) earn a berth to the America East tournament for the first time since 1994. With eight starters and 85 percent of its offensive production returning, and a recruiting class with the potential for extra firepower, the 2002 edition of the Wildcats will look to take the next step and challenge for a conference title.

Leading this year's squad are senior co-captains Doug Lawver (Doylestown, Pa.) and Christian Pauckstadt (Wuppertal, Germany). Lawver, who will hold the captaincy for the third straight season, solidified the Wildcat midfield last fall. A natural leader, Lawver notched five helpers in 2001, moving him into sixth on UNH's all-time assists list with 15. Pauckstadt was injured early in the season, but returned down the stretch to add toughness and defensive prowess to the Wildcat backfield, often times drawing the toughest marking assignments.

Last year, the 'Cats won when it counted most, finishing with an undefeated record in league games at home (4-0-1) and in overtime contests (4-0-3), including dramatic OT come-from-behind victories over Drexel and Hofstra during the final weekend of the regular season.

The forward spots are up for grabs with junior Josh Hareld's (N. Kingstown, R.I.) move to the midfield. Junior Nicola Chicco (Claymont, Del.) recorded 2-2-6 last season and should be a force up front after having an impressive spring. Sophomore Logan Lee (Racine, Wis.) was an America East All-Rookie Team member in 2001 and ranked third on the squad in scoring (4-1-9). Junior Matt Glode (Barrington, N.H.) has put in the work necessary this spring to figure in the team's plans while sophomore Otaso Osayimwese (Lincoln University, Pa.) will try to work his way into the lineup.

Freshman Matt DeCastro (East Providence, R.I.), the all-time leading goal-scorer in Rhode Island high school history, could step right in and have an immediate impact. DeCastro tallied 151 goals and 83 assists in four years at Providence Country Day School. University of Tulsa transfer Ethan Althaus (Newburgh, Ind.) will also look to contribute.

UNH is loaded with midfield players. In addition to Lawver and Hareld, the 'Cats also return senior Josh McGeachey (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), juniors Brett Wyman (Durham, N.H.) and Jamey Haughton (Hampton, N.H.), and sophomores Tyler Jackson (Amherst, N.H.), and David Barrett (Chicago, Ill.).

Hareld led UNH in scoring with 8-7-23 totals last season playing up front. Standing 6-1, Hareld ranks 16th on UNH's all-time scoring list with 30 career points. McGeachey tied for fourth on the team in scoring last season (2-3-7) and was especially dangerous on corner kicks because of his strong and accurate foot. Wyman claimed a midfield spot with his play last year and will look to improve upon last season's success.

Jackson had a solid freshman campaign. His ability serving the ball on restarts should help him put up solid numbers in 2002. Barrett appeared in 15 games last season for the Wildcats and should see more time at either the outside mid or marking back position. Haughton should also challenge for playing time.

Among the newcomers, Eric Masi (York, Maine) is most familiar with the UNH system, having played with Jackson, Glode and Haughton on the Seacoast United club soccer team. Also in the midfield mix are Jonathan Burg (New Milford, Conn.), Michael Card (Amherst, N.H.), and James Doherty (Durham, N.H.), who redshirted last season.

Junior Brendan Hankard (Glastonbury, Conn.) will look to anchor the defense along with Pauckstadt. Hankard was second on the team in scoring last year (5-2-12) and was named to the NSCAA Division I All-New England Third Team. Three of his five goals came during the final weekend sweep of Drexel and Hofstra, including the game-winning tally against the Pride that propelled the 'Cats into the America East tournament.

Junior Nicholas Mello (Rehoboth, Mass.) is a fiery player that is capable of playing either midfield or back, but will miss the first few weeks of the season recovering from surgery. Classmate Matt Chambers (Conifer, Colo.) developed into a solid all-around defender last season. Junior Ben Utter (Arlington, Mass.) will look to crack a deep lineup after appearing in two games last fall, along with newcomer Scott Welle (Branchville, N.J.)

Sophomore Mike Vignola (Hudson, N.H.) is pegged to be the 'Cats No. 1 goalkeeper heading into 2002. Vignola appeared in one game last year before a foot injury sidelined him for the season. Vignola possesses good athleticism and is capable of making the big save.

Among the remainder of the keeper corps, senior Drew Mazzeo (Rockport, Maine) is the most experienced. A transfer from Southern Maine, Mazzeo posted a 1.77 goals-against average in 2000 for the Huskies. Junior Nate Tupper (New Boston, N.H.) and freshman Matthew Pachniuk (Sandy Hook, Conn.) should push for playing time.

UNH will open the 2002 campaign with the 13th annual Nike Fall Soccer Classic on Aug. 30-Sept. 1 with Adelphi and Lafeyette the scheduled opponents.

The following weekend UNH travels to Burlington to compete in the UVM Smith Barney Classic, where it will face Southwest Missouri State and Iona. A trip to Columbia, S.C. to compete in the South Carolina Classic against South Carolina and Charleston is on tap the weekend of the Sept 13-15, followed by two more nonconference matches, at UMass (9/18) and at Providence (9/25).

UNH opens its America East slate at conference newcomer Binghamton on Sept. 29 and closes the regular season at Stony Brook Nov. 3. The America East tournament kicks off Nov. 9, with the championship one week later. The conference champ gets an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament

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