DURHAM, N.H. – One year ago, head coach Maureen Magarity and her staff started a new chapter in the history of the University of New Hampshire women's basketball program. Despite being picked last by the league coaches, the Wildcats bested preseason poll predications and raced toward a trip to the conference tournament. This season, with Magarity back at the helm for her second campaign, the Blue and White will look to take the next step and not only return to postseason play but make a run for the America East Conference Championship.
Despite the loss of two seniors, Magarity will have no shortage of experienced players to anchor a balanced squad this season as nine returning letterwinners join five promising newcomers to form a potent lineup. Leading the way to provide a veteran presence will be a quartet of seniors in Denise Beliveau (Framingham, Mass.), Lauren Wells (West Chester, Pa.), Kelley Flynn (Hopkinton, N.H.) and Abigail LaRosa (Hampton, N.H.).
Beliveau, a fifth-year senior, returns to the lineup this season looking to cap off her impressive career with yet another strong campaign after leading the team in both scoring (12.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) last winter. The Bay State native proved to be a force in the conference landscape as she finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in rebounding (2nd), free throw percentage (5th), 3-point field goals made (7th), scoring (7th) and 3-point field goal percentage (7th) in the America East. The co-captain posted a conference-best 11 double-doubles and was selected to the America East All-Conference Second Team for her efforts.
Wells gained crucial experience last season, appearing in 29 games while making 21 starts as a valuable scoring threat in the backcourt. The versatile senior guard averaged 7.0 points per game last year and also possesses a superb court vision, ranking fourth on the team with 39 assists. Additionally, she brings phenomenal defensive passion to the game, totaling 29 steals last winter.
Flynn, who gained important minutes as a key role player for the Wildcats last season, looks to make a huge impact in her final go-around in the Blue and White. Flynn posted 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game last year and will be counted on once again for a strong presence down low. Flynn is best known for her defense, as she ranked second on the team in blocks last season and shares the program's single-game block record with seven rejections set two years ago against Stony Brook.
LaRosa looks to return to form after a couple of injury-riddled years for the 'Cats. The Granite State native looked impressive as a perennial starter during the 2008-09 season, as she started all 31 games and led the team in steals (35), but sat out the following season due to knee surgery. LaRosa proved to be a strong bench player for the Wildcats last season as she fought to get back to full strength and played in 19 contests, averaging 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in her final three games of the season.
Sophomore Kelsey Hogan (Nashua, N.H.) is primed to take on an established leadership role as co-captain of the Wildcats. After two injury plagued seasons in which she totaled three games, Hogan played in all 29 contests for the 'Cats in 2010-11, leading the America East in three-point percentage (.413, 43-104) and total assists (118). For her efforts, she was named to the America East All-Rookie Team, while her lights-out shooting and court vision make her one of the premier point guards in the conference.
Junior Cari Reed (Oswego, N.Y.) will play an important role in the backcourt as she rejoins the starting lineup after a breakout campaign last winter. Reed started 26 of 29 games last season for UNH and put up some impressive shooting numbers in the process. The New York native led the team in 3-point field goals made (58), ranked second on the team in 3-pt shooting percentage (.367, 58-158), second in total field goals made (109), and finished third on the team in overall shooting percentage (.399, 109-273). Additionally, Reed posted the highest single-game scoring total for the 'Cats, dropping 27 against heated rival Maine (1/26), and will look to bring back that hot hand for the 2011-12 season.
Junior Jillian Friel (Oyster River, N.H.) should also provide some depth in the backcourt after playing in 24 games last season. Coming off the bench, Friel proved to be a consistent option throughout the season and also logged a pair of big games as she tallied seven points against Central Connecticut State (12/19) and recorded a career high four rebounds against Binghamton (1/9).
Sarah-Marie Frankenberger (Gross Gerau, Germany) looks to make a huge impact for the Wildcats during her sophomore campaign. A versatile player capable of playing several positions, Frankenberger marked her presence last year for the Blue and White playing in 26 games, averaging 3.1 points and logging 370 minutes. Frankenberger scored double-digit points twice during her freshman year including 11 points in a win against Quinnipiac (12/29) and 10 points against Brown (11/20).
The Wildcats will also turn to sophomore Bridgette McKnight (Norristown, Pa.) to bolster the frontcourt this season. A forward, McKnight brings a post mentality to the Wildcat lineup. Last year, McKnight was a rebounding specialist down low as she notched 3-plus rebounds in four games, posting a career high four boards against Quinnipiac (12/29).
Transfer Morgan Frame (Waterville, Maine) gears up for her first season as a Wildcat and will surely strengthen the frontcourt as an impact post player. Frame, a junior forward, sat out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations. Prior to UNH, Frame played for St. Anselm College, posting 6.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting .463 from the floor. The Wildcats look for Frame to come off the bench and make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor.
This year, UNH will also count on the youthful presence of four incoming freshmen to make an immediate impact as Ariel Gaston (Toledo, Ohio), Kaylee Kilpatrick (St. John, New Brunswick), Alexandra Leftridge (Melville, N.Y.), and Stephanie Spoto (Pittsford, N.Y) will all compete for playing time.
Gaston, a 5-7 guard, played her senior year of high school at Start High School where she led the Spartans to a City League Championship and earned Third Team All-District honors. Before Start, Gaston played at Southview High School where she was named to the First Team All-League as both a sophomore and junior and the Second Team as a freshman.
Kilpatrick, a 6-2 forward, played her high school ball at Harbour View High School in St. John New Brunswick. Kilpatrick looks to add size to the 'Cats and provide a defensive and rebounding presence that will help UNH this year as well as years to come.
UNH has high hopes for Leftridge who brings a definite scoring threat to the team after leaving her mark at Walt Whitman High in Melville, N.Y., scoring over 1,000 points for the Wildcats. She earned several accolades during the course of her high school career including a McDonald's All-American nomination and All-County honors in 2011, an All-League selection in 2009, and team MVP awards as a freshman and junior.
Rounding out the roster is Spoto, who comes to UNH after a phenomenal career at Pittsfield-Sutherland High School. Spoto, a guard/forward hybrid, earned All-Greater Rochester First-Team honors in 2010-11, Second-Team in 2009-10, All-County team three times, as well as All-State in 2010-11. Spoto played in the McDonald's all-star game as a senior after being voted team MVP following the season.
With a core of talented upperclassmen as well as a solid bench and a wealth of young talent, the Wildcats hope to take the next step forward and make a serious run in the America East this season.