DURHAM, N.H. -- Change is in the air in Durham. Well, on the sidelines, at least, where Michael Daly (UNH ‘90) enters his first season as head coach of the UNH women’s lacrosse team. This is Daly’s second coaching stint at his alma mater; he served as assistant coach in the 2008 season, when the Wildcats earned an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.

And there is also change on the field, where the Wildcats return four starters and 12 letterwinners overall. Those returning include a 2009 NFHCA Northeast Region Second Team selection, two America East All-Conference First Team honorees and a pair of All-Rookie teamers.

One thing that is not expected to change, however, is UNH’s success. New Hampshire has advanced to the America East tournament a league-record 12 consecutive years and has played in the league championship game seven of the last eight years. The ‘Cats were selected second in the America East Coaches Preseason Poll and 20th in a national preseason poll.

The 2010 Wildcats will be led by three captains: seniors Shaunna Kaplan (Framingham, Mass.) and Kellen Millard (Ipswich, Mass.) and junior Allie Duclos (South Windsor, Conn.).

Kaplan, the aforementioned player who received both Northeast Region team and All-Conference recognition, led the team in assists as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Last year, she was the only Wildcat to record double digits in goals, assists, ground balls, draw controls and caused turnovers. In addition to leading the team in assists (29), the speedy attacker ranked second in points (54) and fourth in both goals (25) and caused turnovers (19).

Millard is a defender who has seen a progressive increase in playing time every season. Last year, she saw significant time not only on draw controls but on defense, and her contributions helped lead the Wildcats to a No. 5 national ranking in goals allowed per game.

Duclos is a highly-regarded defensive player who garnered All-Conference First Team accolades in ’09. She ranked fifth in the nation in draw controls and was among the America East leaders in draw controls (second), ground balls (fourth) and caused turnovers (fourth). Despite missing four games, the midfielder led the team in draw controls (59) and ranked second in both ground balls and caused turnovers. Offensively, Duclos recorded six points, all on goals.

There is an abundance of talent at midfield, where Duclos is joined by junior Allie Bratton (Windermere, Fla) and sophomores Ilana Cohen (Andover, Mass.), Kate Keagins (Bay Shore, N.Y), Erin Levesque (Duxbury, Mass.) and Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.). Cohen and Keagins were part of last year’s All-Rookie crop.

Cohen played in 18 of 19 games, was in the starting lineup 15 times and tallied 15 points on 11 goals and four assists. She ranked third on the team in draw controls (24) and also recorded double digits in both ground balls and caused turnovers.

Keagins was an explosive scorer off the bench for UNH, as evident by a six-goal outburst at Albany during the regular season. She finished the 2009 season with 16 points, all on goals.

Rausch was UNH’s top rookie goal scorer and point producer a year ago with 17 goals and 23 points. She played in 18 of 19 games and was in the starting lineup nine times.

Bratton played in14 games, all off the bench, and contributed nine points on five goals and four assists. Levesque saw limited playing time in eight games last season.

Kaplan is joined at the attack position by junior Deb Dale (East Northport, N.Y.) and sophomore JoJo Curro (Amherst, N.H.). Dale started six of the 11 games in which she played last year and compiled 10 points on six goals and four assists. Curro had six starts in 13 games, and she finsihed with 12 points on six goals and six assists.

Besides Millard, the only returning letterwinner on defense is junior Jess Cassotis (York, Maine), She saw action in 10 games, all off the bench, a year ago.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kate Gunts (Wilton, Conn.) returns as the last line of defense. Gunts ranked fourth in the nation in goals-against-average with a mark of 8.18 in 16 games (11 starts) last season; she led the America East conference in that statistic. Her GAA was slightly better -- 8.11 -- in league games.

New Hampshire opens the 2010 season with a pair of home games in February. The Wildcats play host to Holy Cross on the 24th and to intrastate rival Dartmouth College on the 27th. March brings Colgate, Harvard and Fairfield to town as well as road trips to Maryland and Florida.

The month of April brings five consecutive America East league games vs. UMBC, Boston University, Stony Brook, Binghamton and Albany. The month ends on the road against Boston College and the regular season concludes May 1st at Vermont. Postseason play starts May 6 & 8 with the America East tournament at the site of the highest seed, and the tourney winner receives an automatic berth to the NCAAs.

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