Team/Coach of the Year:
Maureen Magarity- Women’s Basketball
After a season that broke the program record for most wins in a single season and a program’s first outright regular season America East conference title, the UNH women’s basketball team takes TNH’s Team of the Year award. Head coach Maureen Magarity, who has turned the program around in her tenure, deservingly takes the Coach of the Year honor.
The 2013-14 season seemed to be the start of a turn around within the UNH women’s basketball program as the team went 19-12, winning seven more games than the previous season.
After winning 17 games in 2014-15 and only winning 12 games last season, the team had an unclear future. Superstar player Elizabeth Belanger, who will go down as one of the best all-around players in school history, graduated and left the 2016-17 season prediction to be a mere shrug of the shoulders.
As this past season becomes a reflection rather than a prediction, it is clear to see how far the ‘Cats exceeded expectations.
A 13-game win streak from mid-December to early February helped UNH set a program record as they won 26 games and went an unprecedented 15-1 in America East play.
The Wildcats never sat lower than number one in the conference rankings and were the official one seed in the conference tournament, where they lost in the semifinals.
UNH’s success would be hard to mention without Maureen Magarity. Magarity was named the America East Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the NCAA Division I Coach of the Year award, given out by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
Magarity, in her seventh year at the helm, helped lead the Wildcats to the second-best turnaround in NCAA Division I from 2015-16 to this past season.
One of Magarity’s best strategic moves this season was actually done two summers ago, when she brought in transfers Brittni Lai and Kat Fogarty from Marist College (where Magarity played and coached). This was the first season they were eligible to play.
Lai and Fogarty both excelled this season as the two solidified themselves as starters. Magarity relied on Lai as her point guard and as the best scoring guard on the team. Fogarty was a great defender in the paint and complimented America East Player of the Year Carlie Pogue very well.
Before UNH, Magarity had a four-year stint at the United States Military Academy where, in her first three years, she had the best three seasons in program history as the team averaged 20 wins per season. In 2006-07 the Black Knights, under Magarity, won 24 games.
The well prepared, always energetic, player’s coach has succeeded to the highest level of each program she’s been involved in. In Durham, there are plenty more records to break and more success to be had.
Magarity and the ‘Cats are back for more in the 2017-18 season as the team only lost one starter due to graduation. The Conference Player of the Year Pogue is back for her senior season and the supporting cast filled with all seniors is geared up for another run at a conference title.
Male Athlete of the Year: Tyler Kelleher- Men’s Hockey
With the given circumstances of a Hobey Baker Award nomination and a breakout year in the NCAA point-scoring column, it’s no surprise that CCM All-American Tyler Kelleher of UNH men’s hockey took home the title of TNH Sports Male Athlete of the Year.
Kelleher boasted an outstanding senior season for the Wildcats. In 40 games this season, Kelleher posted 24 goals and 39 assists for a staggering 63 points. With the college hockey season officially over, Kelleher finished tied for first place in the entire nation for points scored.
Kelleher instantly stepped into a go-to scoring role with the departure of previous offensive standout Andrew Poturalski prior to the start of this season. Kelleher became an immediate threat playing alongside Jason Salvaggio and Michael McNicholas on the first line for the majority of the season.
Kelleher was a key cog on the power-play unit as well. Playing the role of offensive defenseman at the blue line, Kelleher had a hand in many of the team’s 41 overall power play goals this season.
Most recently, Kelleher was recognized by the UNH team, and he was awarded the Roger A. LeClerc Most Valuable Player award at the UNH Hockey awards banquet on April 22.
Shortly after Kelleher’s college career ended, he went on to the professional realm and signed a contract with the Nashville Predators’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals.
On behalf of TNH sports, we congratulate Tyler on his award win and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Women’s Rookie of the Year: Emily Tanski- Volleyball
Freshman Emily Tanski made her presence immediate and impactful in her first year with the UNH volleyball team, after making the most of her first career appearance last August. She averaged a dominant .228 hitting percentage (K-ER/ATT) and 2.72 kills per set on the season.
The outside hitter from Plymouth, Michigan was named America East Rookie of the Week three times (September 20, October 11, and November 14), and to the America East All-Conference First Team, America East All-Rookie Team and 2016 Beantown Challenge All-Tournament Team.
Starting in every regular season game, Tanski helped her team to a 10-2 conference record and later into the NCAA Championship bracket against the University of Nebraska. In that 3-0 loss, Tanski hit .208 and had 10 digs.
Still, she made a point of how important her team has been to her outstanding first year.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without the 17 girls I had by my side,” Tanski said.
Certainly, she was surrounded by talent. The strength in the front row—comprised largely of middle blockers Demi Muses and Gabri Olhava—helped to take some of the first-year pressure off Tanski.
Despite the early tournament elimination, the Wildcats are in position to have another strong season next fall; Tanski will remain a common factor of the ‘Cats’ repeated success. The team has won four consecutive America East regular-season and tournament titles, and is looking forward to improving in 2017 with the addition of more young talent and Tanski’s development.
Female Athlete of the Year: Elinor Purrier- Cross-Country/Track and Field
Topping TNH’s list back-to-back years is distance runner Elinor Purrier. Purrier has consistently been at the top of the women’s running scene and the 2016-17 school year was one of great accomplishments for this already decorated runner.
After winning the America East Championships and NCAA Cross-Country regional championship in the fall, she became the first woman in program history to win a regional championship and qualify for nationals in all three seasons of running (cross country, indoor and outdoor track). At the cross-country NCAA Championships, she fought her way to a seventh-place finish, reaching All-American status.
Indoor track was no different, with Purrier becoming the 800-meter conference champion, breaking her own school record and the 26-year old meet record. Purrier set a new personal record in the mile in preparation for nationals with an impressive time of four minutes, 29.44 seconds, breaking her own record.
At nationals, she crushed the mile with a time of 4:31.88, placing second and achieving All-American honors. The second-place finish is the best a UNH runner has finished in program history.
So far in the outdoor season, Purrier has broken two school records. The 4×1,500m relay team achieved first at the Colonial Relays (18:19.46) and Purrier also broke her own school record in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Ocean State Invitational on April 15. Her time of 9:53.65 is currently the fastest collegiate steeplechase time in the nation, setting her up for a NCAA Championship’s run later in the season. Last summer, Purrier saw time at the Olympic trials and could very well be on her way there again.
Overall, Purrier is the holder of an incredible 10 school records. Six of them have come by herself, with individual records for the indoor 800m, 1,000m and mile, as well as the outdoor 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase.
She also is part of the record setting 4×1,500m and distance medley relay team for indoor and the 4×1,5000 and sprint medley in outdoor. Keep an eye out for Purrier after the school year ends, and especially next year during her senior year of running for the ‘Cats.
Game of the Year
UNH def. UMBC 94-90 in 2OT
Going into this contest, many expected the Wildcats could be in for a thriller. UNH previously went to Baltimore on Jan. 28 where they lost in double overtime to UMBC, 105-103. Tanner Leissner had a career night that night as he posted 36 points in the losing effort. Fast forward to Feb. 25 when the stakes were much higher.
It was senior night for the Wildcats as they would congratulate two of their most important players; Jaleen Smith and Daniel Dion. There were playoff implications involved as the winner of the game would have home court in the first round of the America East playoffs, and would host the loser, thus setting up a rubber match between the two. If UNH won, the team would stay in Durham and host UMBC. If UMBC won, the Wildcats would have to travel to Baltimore, therefore setting up the potential for a hard-fought game. It did not disappoint.
The two teams fought back-and-forth throughout regulation. UNH led 65-57 with 1:34 remaining, but UMBC crawled back on a few costly Wildcat turnovers and rallied to end regulation with a 70-70 tie.
In the first overtime period, the same struggle between the two teams continued. Like in their first meeting, the fate of the game was decided in the final moments. UNH took a lead with 2:24 to play on an Iba Camara layup. This put UNH up, but UMBC’s Jairus Lyles drilled a three-pointer to knot it up at 83 apiece with 15 seconds left. The game between these teams went into double overtime for the second time this season.
In the final overtime frame, UNH retook a lead from another Camara layup, but was answered by a free throw and layup from UMBC. Camara hit two free throws with 3:03 left to put UNH up one 88-87 with 2:45 to play. The Wildcats took the lead for good on another Camara basket with 38 seconds to play, which sealed the deal and the biggest win of the year for the Wildcats.
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Prince Smith Jr.- Football
After leading the Wildcats with five interceptions and 13 pass breakups in his freshman season, cornerback Prince Smith Jr. was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s (CAA) Rookie of the Year.
With standout Casey DeAndrade and fellow freshman Pop Lacey helping Smith man the secondary, he was able to continuously make game-changing plays for UNH throughout its 2016 season where the team went 8-5. Smith recorded his first interception of the season in the inaugural game at Wildcat Stadium as he picked off Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals in the fourth quarter to clinch the first win of the season for the ‘Cats.
Smith also added 37 tackles and one sack during his freshman campaign. Playing opposite of DeAndrade certainly helped Smith fly under the opponents’ radars at the beginning of the season, but he quickly cemented himself as one of the top defensive backs in the CAA.
Smith was named CAA Rookie of the Week on October 31 after a two-interception outing led to a 43-14 UNH victory over Stony Brook. On Stony Brook’s second offensive snap of the game, the freshman cornerback intercepted the pass and took it back 43 yards for a touchdown to put UNH up 13-0 less than five minutes into the game. Smith’s second interception ended the final drive of the first half and kept the Wildcats ahead 15-7 going into the break.
Overall, Smith was a big part of a UNH defense that constantly was turning over opponents and converting those turnovers into touchdowns. The Wildcats led the country in defensive touchdowns with seven and Smith counted for two of them. Besides his pick-six against Stony Brook, Smith also brought back an interception for a 16-yard touchdown in a 21-7 road win over Towson University.
Smith’s freshman season at UNH was worthy of the accolades he received for it, and with DeAndrade gone in 2017 he’ll have to step up once again in his sophomore season.