Women's Lacrosse Springs Into Action This Weekend (Feb. 25) Against Intrastate Rival Dartmouth

ILANA COHEN
KATE KEAGINS

DURHAM, N.H. -- All in. 

Five letters. Two one-word syllables. One team. Twenty-four players. One goal.

All in. 

That's what it will take for the 2012 University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team to obtain its goal as America East champions.

Led by third-year UNH head coach Michael Daly, the Wildcats return 16 letterwinners, including 10 starters, from last year's squad. Those players compiled 107 goals and 49 points for 156 points, which accounted for 65% of the total goals, 63% of the assists and 64% of the points. They also accounted for all 17 starts and every second played in goal.

Senior captains Ilana Cohen (Andover, Mass.) and Kate Keagins (Bay Shore, N.Y.) are the nucleus of a formidable midfield. Cohen was a 2011 America East All-Conference First Team selection as she ranked third on the team in goals (24) and points (37); she tied for second in assists (13) and also reached double digits in both ground balls and draw controls. Cohen was a consistent goal producer – she led the team in shooting percentage – with a tally in 13 of 16 games and seven multiple-goal efforts. 

Keagins led last year's squad in both assists (16) and points (39) as she was one of two 'Cats to record double digits in goals, assists, ground balls, draw controls and caused turnovers; she also led the 'Cats in ground balls and caused turnovers and ranked fourth in both goals and draw controls. Keagins recorded a point in 16 of 17 games with 11 multiple-point efforts that included seven multiple-goal performances. She was an All-Conference First Team selection as a sophomore.

The midfield also includes junior captain Chelsea Cyester (Parker, Colo.) and classmate Amber Casiano (South Windsor, Conn.) as well as sophomore Molly Gaffey (Hampton, N.H.) and newcomers Brooke McGillis (Berwyn, Pa.), Rachael Nock (Severna Park, Md.) and Laura Puccia (Rochester, N.Y.). 

Casiano recorded a point in 12 of 17 games and ranked fifth on the team – fourth among returning players – in goals (18), assists (eight) and points (26). She also ranked third in draw controls.

Cyester played an increased role last year, when she saw action in 13 of 17 games and was in the starting lineup seven times. That trend is expected to continue in 2012. Gaffey appeared in 12 games a year ago. 

Junior Ally Stager (Reading, Mass.) and freshman Morgan Karanasios (Bedford, N.H.) are going to be on the sidelines for the 2012 season. In addition to her statistical contributions (second in draw controls, third in caused turnovers, fourth in ground balls), Stager's physical presence will be missed by the Wildcats.

Junior Jenny Simpson (New Canaan, Conn.) leads a young attack. She was atop last year's UNH leaderboard in goals with 27, and she ranked fourth in points (30) as well as third in shots. Simpson scored a goal in 14 of 17 games – that included nine multiple-goal efforts – and ended the year with a goal in eight consecutive games. 

Meghan Bridges (Sandy Hook, Conn.) is the only other returning 'Cat on attack. She played in 16 of 17 games and contributed six points (4g, 2a). Becca Graves (Peabody, Mass.), Kayleigh Hinkle (Glenelg, Md.) and Emma Kriss (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) are the newcomers. Kriss played in all 15 games for Old Dominion University as a freshman in 2011 and finished the year with four points (1g, 3a).

There is also a lot of youth on the defensive unit, which includes senior Erin Levesque (Duxbury, Mass.), junior captain Casey Doyle (Ivyland, Pa.) and four sophomores. Levesque emerged as a starter during her sophomore season in 2010 and continued that role last year. Doyle, who was one of just two 'Cats to start all 17 games a year ago, has helped anchor the UNH defense since her arrival in '10. She ranked third overall during the 2011 season and is second among returning players in ground balls; she also ranked fourth in caused turnovers. 

The sophomore quartet is comprised of Brittany Conner (Wilton, Conn.), Jamie DePetris (Radnor, Pa.), Cara Dowdle (Northbrook, Ill.) and Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.).  Rees played in all 17 games and was in the starting lineup 14 times en route to being selected to the America East All-Rookie Team; she recorded double digits in both ground balls and draw controls. Dowdle joined Rees on the 2011 America East All-Rookie Team as she started in nine of 10 games played. Conner saw action in 11 games with five starts while DePetris started six games with 10 overall appearances.

Two experienced veterans with distinctly different styles return in goal for the Wildcats. Senior goalkeeper Kate Gunts (Wilton, Conn.) started seven games and played in nine games overall a year ago to increase her career numbers to 36 games and 25 starts. Her career statistics include a 17-8 record and 9.11 GAA, and last year Gunts had a .459 save percentage in league action.

Junior goalie Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.) earned America East All-Conference Second Team recognition in 2011, one year after being named to the league's All-Rookie Team. She started 10 games with 12 appearances and five victories in both '10 and '11; last year, she missed the final three games due to injury and finished with a 9.07 GAA as well as 21 ground balls, which ranked fifth on the team. 

Freshman Taylor Hurwitz (Holland, Pa.) completes the trio of UNH goalies.

New Hampshire's schedule features seven home games and includes five games against teams ranked in the IWLCA Preseason Poll. In addition to the Feb. 25 (1 p.m.) season opener against 14th-ranked Dartmouth, the Wildcats travel to sixth-ranked Stanford University (March 11) and play host to 19th-ranked Vanderbilt University and 16th-ranked University at Albany; the 'Cats close the regular season May 1 at 13th-ranked Boston College.

The top four teams in the conference standings advance to the America East Championship, which will be held May 3 & 5 at the site of the top seed. New Hampshire has advanced to the tourney each of the past 14 years, which is a league record.

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