With the season opener against Cornell a few days around the corner, the Wildcats hosted their annual media day at the UNH Field House. Head coach Maureen Magarity, forward Carlie Pogue and transfers Brittni Lai and Kat Fogarty were available for the media.
The Wildcats enter the season with a preseason projection of finishing sixth in the America East conference. Last season, the ‘Cats finished with a 12-18 record and lost their first playoff game to Maine in the first round of the America East conference tournament.
“Last year was an up and down season,” Magarity said. “It started well but then we had some crucial injuries. I’m proud in how we stuck together, the younger players gained more confidence even though we weren’t winning.”
UNH as the preseason sixth seed looks to use its ranking as fuel to be an even stronger team in conference this season.
“We were all surprised,” Lai said after hearing the ‘Cats were the preseason sixth seed. “We’ll use it for momentum. It only matters where you end up after the season.”
“It helps us, we have to go out and show everyone what we can do,” Fogarty said.
With the loss of UNH graduate Elizabeth Belanger, improvement needed to be made in the offseason to build a team that can compete in a very close conference. Belanger was UNH’s top scorer, and finding a way to replace her is no easy task.
“We needed [Belanger] to get a double-double every night to have a shot at winning,” Magarity said. “We’re going to miss her rebounding, and she always brought intangibles every day.”
The key to replace a star like Belanger can start with the newly added transfers Lai and Fogarty. The two sat out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations but are poised to make an immediate impact in Durham.
“Siting out was tough”, Lai said. “I was able to learn a lot from watching the games and watching the film.”
Lai and Fogarty join a junior class that is going to be heavily relied on this season. Aliza Simpson has been more confident with the ball in the preseason as she spent more time at the shooting guard position, rather than point guard. Pogue is coming off two years of development and is expected to be a go-to player to generate offense.
“I’ve been communicating with my team, been more of a leader,” Pogue said. “I feel better than the last two years, I feel better with my game.”
Pogue is the returning leading scorer for the Wildcats as she averaged 11 points per game and added 5.4 rebounds per game. Joining Pogue in the paint is sophomore Ashley Storey who emerged as a key player in the second half of last years’ season.
Storey led the ‘Cats in field goal percentage and was named to the 2015-16 America East All Rookie Team. Storey’s unique ability to find the open passing lane along with the growing confidence of Pogue seems to be a solid presence for UNH inside. With that in mind, Magarity believes that when it comes down to conference games, it’s anyone’s championship to win
“The conference is wide open,” Magarity said. “There’s a lot of new faces with players and coaches, we have to go game by game.”
It all starts Friday night, Nov. 11 with a matchup against Cornell. The Wildcats first home game is Monday Nov. 14 against New England College at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium.