New Era Begins for New Hampshire Women's Lacrosse

DURHAM, N.H. University of New Hampshire is on the threshold of more than a new season it's a new era for the Wildcats under the leadership of first-year head coach Sarah Albrecht. And it all begins Feb. 16 (11:00 a.m.) when UNH plays its 2013 season opener at Hofstra University.

Albrecht, an active seven-year player on the U.S. women's national senior team, directs a UNH team comprised of 19 letterwinners, including nine starters, and six newcomers.

Six of the eight double-digit point scorers and two of three goalkeepers return to the fold, and that includes captains Jenny Simpson (New Canaan, Conn.) and Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.).

Simpson, an attacker, is the team's second leading returning scorer she produced 30 points on 24 goals and six assists, and earned America East All-Academic Team recognition for the second consecutive year in 2012. She led the 'Cats in shooting percentage (54.5%) and scored a goal in 13 of 16 games with five multiple-goal efforts as part of seven multiple-point games.

O'Keefe saw action in 10 games (seven starts) a year ago and played 416:56 of a possible 960 minutes in goal. In four games in the month of March, she recorded a .468 save percentage and her goals-against-average improved each month with a season-best 10.99 in three April games. O'Keefe is an athletic goalie who has a penchant for stepping out of the crease to intercept passes.

The third team captain is defender Casey Doyle (Ivyland, Pa.), who has started 48 of 49 games in her three-year career with 16 starts in '12. She became a leader of UNH's defensive unit last season, when she ranked fourth on the squad in caused turnovers and fifth in ground balls. One year earlier as a sophomore, Doyle was also among the statistical leaders in ground balls (third) and caused turnovers (fourth).

Sophomore midfielder Laura Puccia (Fairport, N.Y.), a 2012 America East All-Rookie Team selection, led the 'Cats in goals (34), points (41) and shots (65) a year ago. She was the first UNH freshman to record 30-plus goals and 40-plus points since 2006 and the first rookie to lead the Wildcats in goals since 1988.

In other stats, Puccia ranked second in draw controls and shooting percentage (.523) as well as fifth in assists. She ended the year with a 10-game goal-scoring streak and scored a goal in 15 of 16 games overall with nine multiple-goal efforts as part of 10 multiple-point performances.

New Hampshire will also receive offensive production out of the midfield from seniors Amber Casiano (South Windsor, Conn.) and Chelsea Cyester (Parker, Colo.) as well as sophomore Rachael Nock (Severna Park, Md.).

Casiano started 14 of 16 games a year ago and has 42 starts in 48 career games. She ranked third among returning Wildcats in both goals (20) and points (24) in 2012. In other stats, Casiano was second overall in ground balls and third in draw controls, as well as fifth in shots and fourth in shooting percentage.

Cyester was on the verge of a breakout year in '12 when she incurred a season-ending injury during the seventh game. Before then, she recorded a four-game point-scoring streak in which she tallied 10 points on eight goals and two assists.

Nock played in all 16 games and was in the starting lineup nine times last year as a freshman, when she tied for second in assists with nine and also netted nine goals for a total of 18 points. She tallied a point in 11 of 16 games with six multiple-point efforts.

The midfield also includes junior Molly Gaffey (North Hampton, N.H.) and sophomore Brooke McGillis (Berwyn, Pa.). Gaffey appeared in 13 games last year and emerged as a starter late in '12, when she was in the lineup three of the last six games. McGillis played in every game and was in the starting lineup 15 times last season; she ranked third in caused turnovers and fourth in ground balls.

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