DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team, under the leadership of second-year head coach Sarah Albrecht, returns 14 letterwinners, including seven starters, from last year's team that exceeded conference coaches' expectations by placing third in the America East standings. The Wildcats were picked in a third-place tie in the 2014 America East Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Three of the Wildcats' top point producers return to this year's lineup. Sophomore Laura McHoul (Westwood, Mass.) led the 2013 Wildcats in both assists (33) and points (49) en route to being named America East co-Rookie of the Year. The 33 assists marked the second highest single-season total in program history, and her seven assists against Binghamton University was the highest by a 'Cat the past decade. She opened her career with a point in eight consecutive games and tallied a point in 15 of 16 games overall. In other stats, McHoul ranked fourth in draw controls and fifth in shots.
Junior Kayleigh Hinkle (Glenelg, Md.) also had one of the best single-season assist marks in UNH history a year ago with 25, which is tied for ninth. She also scored 12 goals to finish third overall in points (37). Hinkle recorded a point in 15 of 17 games and that included a six-assist effort at UConn. In other stats, Hinkle ranked second in draw controls and fourth in shots.
Junior Laura Puccia (Fairport, N.Y.) is the top returning goal scorer (30) and tallied three assists for a total of 33 points, which ranked fourth overall and third among returning 'Cats. Puccia – more than a point producer – was atop the UNH leaderboard in draw controls, ranked second in shots and fourth in ground balls. She recorded a point in 15 of 17 games with multiple goals nine times and was voted to the America East All-Conference Second Team.
Sophomore Nicole Grote (Ellicott City, Md.) is the other returning Wildcat who recorded double digits in points during the 2013 season. She tallied 15 goals and seven assists for a total of 22 points en route to being selected to the conference's All-Rookie Team. Grote had five multiple-point efforts and that included seven points (3g, 4a) against Iona.
Four other letterwinners – senior captain Molly Gaffey (North Hampton, N.H.), juniors Brooke McGillis (Berwyn, Pa.) and Rachael Nock (Severna Park, Md.), and sophomore Hannah Wohltmann (Towson, Md.) – return to the corps of midfielders.
Nock started all 17 games a year ago and finished with nine points, all on goals. Gaffey played every game – she was in the starting lineup three times – and tallied seven points (6g, 1a). McGillis also saw action every game – she had two starts – and recorded four points (2g, 2a). Wohltmann finished the 2013 season with five points (4g, 1a) in 16 games, all off the bench.
The incoming class of Devon Croke (Norwell, Mass.), Marissa Gurello (Manorville, N.Y.) and Amy LeBel (Charlton, N.Y.) looks to make an impact in the midfield. Gurello was an Academic All-America Team selection in 2012 and 2013; she was also a four-time New York State Scholar Athlete at Eastport South Manor High School (N.Y.). Croke was honored as a league All-Star as a senior, when she recorded 95 points (60 goals, 35 assists) at Norwell High School (Mass.). LeBel was a five-year letterwinner at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School (N.Y.); she led the team to the Section II title as a senior, when she recorded 39 points, 61 ground balls, 30 caused turnovers and 49 draw controls.
Becca Graves (Rowley, Mass.) and Emma Kriss (Rockville, Centre, N.Y.) are back on the 'Cat attack. Graves saw action in two games last season as a sophomore and finished with three points, all on goals. Kriss played in three games and had one point on an assist in her first year playing for the 'Cats.
Lexi Moriano (Vero Beach, Fla.), the lone newcomer to the attack, was a 2013 U.S. Lacrosse All-America Team selection out of Vero Beach High School. She was a four-time selection to both the South Florida All-District Team and South Florida All-Region Team.
UNH's defensive unit is anchored by senior captains Jamie DePetris (Radnor, Pa.) and Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.) as well as classmate Cara Dowdle (Northbrook, Ill.). Sophomore Gen Eby (Towson, Md.) was sidelined by injury last year and did not see game action.
DePetris, a two-time America East All-Academic Team selection, was the only Wildcat last season to record double digits in ground balls (18), draw controls (19) and caused turnovers (10). She ranked third on the team in both DC and CTO. DePetris recorded a ground ball in 12 of 17 games with multiple GBs six times. She also recorded at least one draw control 12 times and also had multiple DCs six times.
Rees tied for the team lead in caused turnovers (12) and ranked second in ground balls (21). She recorded at least one ground ball in 14 of 17 games with eight multiple GB efforts, including a career-high five at both Hofstra and UConn.
Dowdle added depth to UNH's defensive unit by playing in six games – all off the bench – in the 2013 season. She had 14 starts in 24 games spanning her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Freshmen Jesse DePaolo (Swampscott, Mass.), Lily Ford (Holderness, N.H.) and Francesca LoVerde (Chicago, Ill.) have been added to the corps of defensemen. DePaolo joined the lax program after playing on the UNH women's rugby club team in 2012-13; she was a conference all-star as a senior at Swampscott High School (Mass.), when she scored 71 goals. Ford led Holderness Prep School to the Lake Region championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013. LoVerde was an All-State First Team honoree when she led Montini Catholic High School to the 2013 state title game.
Taylor Hurwitz (Holland, Pa.), a junior, is the only goalkeeper on UNH's 2014 roster. She played in five games and had a 1-1 record with a 6.92 GAA and .455 save percentage in a total of 104:07 of action last year. Hurwitz combined with graduated Kathleen O'Keefe to record the Wildcats' first shutout since April 2002 (vs. Iona) and earned the win in the team's 13-12 victory at Binghamton University by limiting the Bearcats to four second-half goals. In two years as a 'Cat, Hurwitz has a 11.69 GAA and .429 save percentage in 15 games (six starts).
New Hampshire plays a 16-game regular-season schedule highlighted by nine home games – four at Cowell Stadium and five at Memorial Field. The 'Cats open the 2014 season Feb. 15 vs. Hofstra at Cowell Stadium, which is also the venue for games against Dartmouth (Feb. 22), Fairfield (March 14) and Colorado (March 16). Memorial Field is the site for home games versus Lehigh (March 1), Vermont (March 29), Binghamton (April 12) and Albany (Senior Day, April 26).
The Wildcats look to return to the America East Championship, which will be held May 1 & 3 at the site of the highest seed.