DURHAM, N.H. -- The Wildcats open up their 2009 campaign returning all but one player from last year’s squad, including two America East All-Rookie selections and two America East All-Conference second team honorees as they look to win their fourth America East Championship. After a 2008 season in which the Wildcats had the youngest team in the America East Conference, there is once again great optimism in the development of the program as Head Coach Jill Hirschinger and her staff look to add to their extensive success and tally up another winning campaign in 2009.
    With Hirschinger at the helm, the Wildcats will be in good hands as she returns for her 14th season as one of the most successful coaches in America East history. In her 14 years at UNH, she has become the program’s winningest coach and the first to surpass the 200-win milestone as she currently has 210 victories. Not to mention she has guided the Wildcats to 20-win seasons in six of the last 11 years. She has accumulated an impressive 626-429-10 overall record, owning a .593 winning percentage. Hirschinger’s 626 career-coaching victories rank her 15th on the all-time active NCAA wins list.
    This season, the Wildcats will play one their most competitive schedules as they square off against four teams in the top 100 RPI, including Albany (53), Arizona State (64), Northeastern (92) and Texas Christian University (100). The ‘Cats open up their 2009 season on Friday, Aug. 28 at the Syracuse Tournament as they take on the Orange as well as Siena and Sacramento State during the opening weekend of competition in Syracuse. The Wildcats open their home slate with a single exhibition match against Bentley College on Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. The following weekend, UNH will travel to participate in the UConn Tournament and will play the host Huskies, Texas Christian University (TCU) and Long Island University (LIU) Sept. 3-4. New Hampshire will stay on the road as it squares off against Rhode Island, Brown and Syracuse at the URI Tournament and will continue play in the Ocean State with a single match against Bryant University. UNH will return home for the second-annual Holly Young Invitational Sept. 18-19, where they will welcome in Arizona State, Wyoming as well as Harvard. The Wildcats will conclude non-conference play with a single match at Northeastern on Sept. 22 and weekend tournament at Providence College Sept. 25-26 with the Friars, Coppin State and St. Francis (N.Y.). UNH will open America East conference play on Friday, Oct. 2 as it plays host to Binghamton (7 p.m.) and continues at home with Albany on Sunday, Oct. 4 (1 p.m.).
    The Wildcats will once again be led by senior captain Kate Uitti (Pinckney, Mich.) for the second consecutive season, as she headlines an impressive list of setters returning to the program in 2009. Last season, she collected a team-high 645 assists, rounding out 2,653 assists for her career, a mark, second only to Associate Head Coach Stacy Barnett (3,977). In addition to Uitti, the ‘Cats will also be led junior captain and fellow setter Sara Heldman (Greenwood, Ind.).  Last year, Heldman emerged as a key element in the Wildcat lineup as she ranked second on the roster with a career-high 342 assists. In addition to her impressive assist output, Heldman also added 115 digs, 18 kills and 12 blocks in 2008. Newcomer Jansan Falcusan (Plymouth, Mich.) also looks to add depth for the ‘Cats as she will challenge both Uitti and Heldman for a spot in the lineup. 
    The Wildcats should be back on track defensively in 2009. Leading the way for the ‘Cats is senior captain Kelly Harte (East Rochester, N.H.) who had a breakout year in 2008 after posting a career-high 116 digs and 11 assists.  One player who has emerged in as a defensive leader is junior defensive specialist Jayde Huxtable (St. Charles, Ill.), as she looks to become a mainstay in the Wildcat lineup. Huxtable proved her worth in 2008, tallying 100 digs and six assists. Joining the two upperclassmen is newcomer Jessie Schnepp (East Longmeadow, Mass.), who will look to challenge both Huxtable and Harte and make her mark in the lineup.
    Even with great depth and experience on defense, the Wildcats look to truly make their mark offensively as they return two America East All-Rookie selections and two America East All-Conference second team honoreess into the fold as well as their top six kill leaders from a year ago. Headlining this illustrious group in the middle is senior middle blocker Lindsay Fogarty (Pleasanton, Calif.). Fogarty was impressive as she earned America East All-Conference second team honors after compiling 221 kills, a total which ranked second on the team. Paired with an impressive kills total, Fogarty had a .247 hitting percentage, a clip which ranked ninth in the conference. She also registered the second most blocks on the squad with 73, while also collecting 40 digs and 24 assists. Junior middle blocker Justine Elliott (Mitchellville, Md.) also proved to be valued member of the Wildcat rotation as she notched the fifth highest kill total among all Wildcats with 111. She also totaled a career-high 96 blocks, a total that ranked sixth in the conference. Also looking to add depth to the Wildcat lineup in 2009 are red-shirt freshmen middle blockers Jessy Dick (Lethbridge, Alberta) and Starsha Tunstall (East Providence, R.I), both who look to challenge Fogarty and Elliott for playing time.
     Senior outside hitter Kirsten Bates (Calgary, Alberta) leads a talented and deep group of outside hitters.  Bates, an America East All-Conference second team selection, registered 345 kills, a total which ranked fourth in the conference. She also tallied the second-most digs among all Wildcats with 245, while notching 51 blocks and 24 assists.  This season also holds great promise for a group of young outside hitters looking to make their mark in 2009.  Also making a major splash in 2008 was sophomore outside hitter Pauline Acres (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), who earned an All-Rookie Conference selection after registering the third highest kill total on the team with 181. Kills aside, she also compiled 104 digs, 25 blocks and three assists. Another returning America East Conference All-Rookie selection is Lauren Laquerre (Concord, N.H.), who just a year ago tallied the fourth best kill total on the squad with 169. Adding to her stellar freshman campaign, Laquerre compiled 41 digs along with notching 28 blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Amy Keding (Northbrook, Ill.) also looks to serve a valuable piece of the puzzle in 2009 as she is coming off a freshman season in which she notched 41 kills, 15 blocks and 14 digs, all which ranked third among Wildcat rookies. Junior Laura Yegge (Redlands, Calif.) will be looked on to provide depth in the Wildcat lineup as she looks to build upon a sophomore campaign in which she registered a career-high 28 kills, along with four blocks and two digs. Sophomore Taylor Dressing (Gillette, N.J.) also looks to serve as a valued role player this season, as she looks to make her mark in the Wildcat rotation.
    Overall, the Wildcats return two All-Rookie Conference selections and two All-Conference second team selections as they have their sights on the America East playoffs. However, with a plethora of young talent at the core of the program, the ‘Cats look to set the bar that much higher as they work towards capturing their fourth America East Championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

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