DURHAM, N.H. - The University of New Hampshire women's swimming and diving team will compete in the America East Championships, hosted by Boston University, at its Aquatic Center from Thursday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 26.
Selected third in the conference preseason poll, New Hampshire finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, opening the year with five straight victories. The 'Cats will rely on the veteran leadership of seniors Casey Albert (Enfield, N.H.), Jessica Little (Barrie, Ontario) and Nicole Poppas (Larchmont, N.Y.) entering the postseason, as they look to put a stamp on a successful 2011-12 campaign.
Shelli Reed (Hollister, Calif.) is expected to lead the way in the pool for the Wildcats, qualifying within the top-3 of the sprint-freestyle events including No. 2 in the 200 entering the championships. The 'Cats will also get a boost on the boards from three-time Female Diver of the Week, Ellen Pelletier (West Hartford, Conn.), as she ranks No. 1 in the one-meter competition.
UNH opened the season breaking five pool records, recording its fourth straight victory in as many years against Siena (Oct. 15), 126-93, at Siena Swim Center. The Wildcats won every event on the day, with Little capturing pool records in both the 200-yard IM and 200-yard breaststroke. She finished the 200-yard IM with a time of two minutes and 9.27 seconds, while clocking in at 2:20.88 in the 200-yard breast.
The 'Cats followed up their win against Siena, topping Central Connecticut State and Bryant University in a dual meet on Oct. 23. Reed claimed the top spot in the 100-yard freestyle (52.14), 50-yard free (24.02) and 200-yard free (1:51.65), finishing the day at the top of the America East performance list in all three events.
New Hampshire continued its hot start, claiming first place in 14 of 16 events on its way to posting a 160-128 victory over Rhode Island (Nov. 12). Katie Mann (Prince George, B.C.) raced to first-place finishes in all three individual events in which she competed and also swam a leg in the winning 400 medley relay to lead New Hampshire to a victory. The win, which was their fourth straight, catapulted the Wildcats to No. 20 in the first CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major Division I rankings of the season.
UNH preserved its undefeated streak in its conference opener against Vermont (Dec. 4), taking out the Catamounts, 168-132. Reed and Little combined for five individual first-place finishes on the day to lead the Wildcats to victory. Reed finished in first place in the 50-yard (24.12), 100-yard (52.48) and 200-yard freestyle (1:52.06). Little was equally impressive, collecting first-place finishes in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststrokes, timing in at 1:06.19 and 2:21.90 respectively.
Despite dropping decisions to Boston University (Jan. 16) and Dartmouth (Jan. 21) down the stretch, the Wildcats capped off the year in convincing fashion earning a 185.5-109.5 win over Maine (Feb. 3). Reed finished in first place in both the 50-yard (24.57) and 200-yard freestyle (1:54.20). Additionally, New Hampshire took the top three spots in the 100-yard freestyle with Adria Morales (Canyon Country, Calif.) finishing in first place, clocking in at 10:35.11. Katie Keefer (Waynesboro, Va.) (10:41.90) and Sydney Tribou (Orlando, Fla.; 10:46.30) claimed second and third place in the event.
Last season the 'Cats claimed third place at the America East Swimming and Diving Championships, breaking 11 school and nine conference records, while also qualifying for NCAA provisional time standards in eight swims.
Lauren McCandless (Macungie, Pa.) contributed to three first place finishes and helped the 'Cats break four records on the weekend, earning the Women's Rookie of the Year award. She also captured one individual title, while breaking a combined three records on her own.
Amy Perrault also took home hardware for the Wildcats, earning the Coaches Award, recognizing a senior that gets the most points in their career at the championships.
In addition, UNH earned America East Coaching Staff of the Year for the second straight year, taking home the honor for the 11th time in Josh Willman's 18-year tenure as New Hampshire's head coach.