DURHAM, N.H. -- The 2001 season was notable for the New Hampshire women's lacrosse program. The Wildcats advanced to the America East Championships for the fourth consecutive season and finished the year at 11-7. The 11 victories were the most by UNH since the 1991 team also recorded 11 wins. Along the way, the 'Cats broke the school record for both goals (210) and points (281) in a season.
New Hampshire, which was picked No. 2 in the America East preseason poll that was released earlier this week, aspires to continue its marked improvement in the 2002 season, which begins March 3 with a home game against Dartmouth College. Game time at Cowell Stadium is 1 p.m.
"I feel confident that we are one of the top two teams in America East," said Sandy Bridgeman, the sixth-year head coach of UNH. "It is our goal to be in that championship game. We always talk about moving forward as a team and achieving something recent UNH teams have not. We have been in the semifinals four straight years and are looking to take that next step by playing in the title game.
"We've made strides and people took notice," Bridgeman added. "We want to continue that."
People will immediately notice a difference in the way the Wildcats attack the goal.
"Offensively, we lost a big part of our goal scoring in Colleen Christopher and Meg Mangano," Bridgeman stated. "This year's offense is more balanced. It is going to be everyone's role to put the ball in the net and feeding it to cutters."
This season, the attack will run primarily through senior co-captain Meagan Clavin (Grantham, N.H.) and classmate Molly Cherington (Meriden, N.H.). Clavin is the third-leading returning scorer and Cherington, who enters the season with 114 career points, is No. 4. Both have demonstrated the patience and skill to execute out of a perimeter-based offense. Jessie Groszkowski (Reistertown, Md.), the leading returning goal scorer and point producer, will be one of the Wildcats' primary weapons because of her speed and precision shooting. Her 48 tallies from a year ago is the eighth-best single-season total in the program's history. The junior proved to be more than just a goal scorer by ranking second on the team in both ground balls and draw controls.
From the midfield, UNH can rely on senior co-captain Sue Yund (Castelton, N.Y.) to make a significant impact on the attack. She had a career-high 30 points last season that included a personal-best nine assists.
Sarah Cahill (Lexington, Mass.), a junior, and sophomore Kelly Blaney (Stony Brook, N.Y.) are two of nine players who will fill a role in the seven-person perimeter attack.
Jess Burnap (New Canaan, Conn.) and Laura Dosdall (Wellesley, Mass.) are expected to make immediate contributions to the attack as rookies. Fellow newcomers Jill Albee (Pembroke, N.H.) and Bronwyn Leto (Oswego, N.Y.) provide depth to the offense and have demonstrated the potential to contribute as the season progresses.
"Last year, we were a run-and-gun, fastbreak type of team. This year we will play more of a possession game by setting up a perimeter offense and executing out of that," Bridgeman explained. "The biggest thing is being patient and executing," she added.
Team defense will be one of the squad's strengths. And that starts from the goal out.
The anchors in the low defense will be seniors Nicole Moore (Wilton, Maine) and Jen Magill (Wynnewood, Pa.). Moore will be a third-year starter and she is a scrappy, aggressive player. Magill will be stepping into a starting role, but she has been an important player in the defensive rotation for three years and does not lack experience.
Hilary Maynes (Freeport, Maine), another senior, and junior Jen Smith (Marshfield, Mass.) will play a defensive role from the midfield, as will the aforementioned Yund, who ranked second on last year's team in caused turnovers.