Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: It’s spring football crunch time for Wildcat gridders
DURHAM -- IT’S CRUNCH time — spring style — for the University of New Hampshire football team.
The Wildcats are down to their last week of spring football, which wraps up with the annual Blue & White game on Saturday at noon in Cowell Stadium.
A couple of the challenges facing coach Sean McDonnell and his staff during the spring have been to come up with a wide receiver or two to help fill in for the loss of Justin Mello and to find a kicker to replace Mike MacArthur of No. Hampton.Kyon Taylor, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is the latest receiver to receive passing grades from the coach.
“He’s taken a step in the right direction catching the ball,” McDonnell said. “He understands where he’s got to go and he’s going a pretty good job.”
Senior Jimmy Giansante has drawn praise from McDonnell in camp, too.
UNH’s top receiver, R.J. Harris, has not been on the field during the spring, which has given others more of a chance to show their stuff.
Harris and fellow senior Steven Thames, a defensive back, are serving what McDonnell called, “indefinite suspensions from the team for breaking team and university rules.”
McDonnell said he thinks the players will be back: “Once they correct the mistakes they made.”
Harris is a huge piece of the UNH offense.
He had 76 catches for 1,004 yards and five touchdowns last year and for his career has 210 catches for 2,777 yards and 21 scores. He is second on the school’s career list for receptions to David Ball’s 304 and fifth in career yardage. Ball leads the yardage list at 4,655.David Gamble is second at 3,072, Curtis Olds third at 3,028 and John Perry is next at 2,873.
MacArthur handled the kicking duties the last four seasons. McDonnell had been pleased with the work of junior Christian Breda and redshirt freshman Max Pedinoff in that department.
“Both of them have been kicking the ball extremely well,” McDonnell said.
The track and field teams head to the University of Vermont for the America East championships on Saturday and Sunday, looking to improve on their results in the league indoor meets that capped the winter season.
“The goal is always to be in the top two or three and if we can match the indoors (fourth for women and men) and maybe be a little higher, that would be great,” said Jim Boulanger, the director of UNH’s track & field and running program. “The biggest problem for everyone has been the weather and getting your training in, but we feel we’re in pretty good shape.”
Albany’s well-funded teams have dominated America East track & field for years — the women have won five straight titles, the men nine — and are favored again.
Senior George Jumpp, a fifth-year senior out of Manchester Memorial, is ranked third in the hammer throw in America East.
“The goal is to make it to the NCAA Regionals,” Boulanger said. “He basically has to throw about six feet farther. I think it’s doable.”
Junior John Prizzi in the steeplechase, freshman Chris Poggi of Pinkerton Academy in Derry in the 800, senior Jesse Swink in the javelin, D’mahl McFadden of Merrimack Valley in Penacook in the hurdles and junior Isaiah Penn in the 400 are among the other contenders.
Senior Rosemary Read in the hammer, senior Allison Behm of Pembroke and sophomore Lauren Perrodin in the sprints, junior Virginia Lavallee of Kingston in the hurdles, senior Steph Walsh of Merrimack Valley in the discus, senior Elise Beattie in the 5 and 10k and senior Anne Twombly of Exeter in the 800 are among the women who will be looking for points.
The lacrosse team, 7-9 overall and 2-3 in America East, is the No. 4 seed in the league tournament and takes on No. 1 seed and host Stony Brook, 14-3 and 4-1, in a semifinal on Friday at 5 p.m. No. 2 Albany, 13-2 and 4-1, plays No. 3 Vermont, 12-5 and 5-2, at 7:30.
The winners play at noon on Sunday, also at Stony Brook, for the league championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats lost a 15-5 regular season game at Stony Brook on April 15.
The Wildcats dropped their regular season finale, 19-5, to Albany at home on Saturday.
Sophomore Laura McHoul had three assists in the game, giving her a school record 36 for the season. She also has 20 goals.
Defender Cori Rees, a senior out of Hampstead and Pinkerton Academy, is second on the team in groundballs with 26 and senior midfielder Molly Gaffey of No. Hampton and Winnacunnet has 12 goals and six assists for 18 points.
Forward Matt Willows, who will be a senior forward, will be the 111th captain of the men’s hockey team next season. The announcement was made at the team’s awards banquet on Saturday night.
Fellow senior forwards Grayson Downing and Casey Thrush will be alternate captains.
Willows will be the top returning scorer for the Wildcats. He had 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points as a junior and shared the Guy Smith Award as the team’s best forward with Kevin Goumas. Goumas was also the winner of the Frank “The Fan” Halbert Fan Favorite Award.
Goumas, who is graduating, had 19 goals and 33 assists for 52 points and won the Roger A. Leclerc Award as the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Senior Eric Knodel and junior Trevor van Riemsdyk, who passed on his final year of eligibility to turn pro, shared the Rod Langway Best Defenseman Award; senior Justin Agosta won the A. Barr “Whoop” Snively Award for citizenship and service; senior goalie Jeff Wyer won the Charles Holt Coaches Award; senior forward Nick Sorkin won the Bob Kullen Unsung Hero Award; sophomore Kyle Smith was voted Most Improved; and senior forward Jeff Silengo took home the Nate Hardy Ironman Award and the Warren Brown Award for best defensive forward.