By SAM RABUCK
The Wildcats are coming off a season that brought two firsts to UNH women’s soccer: An America East championship and a birth in the NCAA tournament. And the Wildcats are looking to reload.
Claiming the America East title was something that head coach Steve Welham feels has positively impacted recruiting.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest from a lot of very talented players especially in our region [New England], but also outside of region as well,” Welham said.
As for the incoming class of freshmen, nine players have signed their national letters of intent to play for the Wildcats in the fall. Welham stated that the team will not be releasing the names of those players until a later date. Welham did speak highly of the incoming class, saying that the class is very talented and come from a variety of reaches throughout the country including California, the Midwest and New England.
Welham offered some insight into the recruiting landscape for women’s soccer and explained that it’s very accelerated, meaning recruiting begins at a relatively young age—sometimes as young as those who will graduate high school in 2017.
“We’ve already started the 2017 class identifying and communicating with those players, and we’re talking to some very talented individuals,” Welham said. “And I think you do see that spike with the success we’ve had this year really kind of parley into who we’re talking to, who we have coming in and who’s verbally committed.”
Although NCAA regulations prohibit Welham from releasing names from beyond the incoming class of freshmen, he indicated that he already has a strong list of verbal commits from those who would enter UNH in the fall of 2016 if they choose to sign their national letters of intent to play for the Wildcats next spring.
Now in his second year at the helm, Welham not only brought a new outlook to UNH schematically, but has also begun implementing a focus on offseason physical fitness during which the players hit the weight room three times a week for strength training and an indoor track workout regimen.
“The biggest thing has been the girls buying in to a new system, a new style, a new formation and a real new makeup of what we’re about,” Welham said.
Another training technique Welham has implemented is the use of a Futsal, which is a smaller, denser ball that is designed to enhance footwork and speed of play.
According to Welham, the effort the women have put in during the offseason is already paying dividends on the field during spring games, especially against national powerhouse Northeastern, a team that made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament and compiled an impressive 15-5-3 record along the way. Welham said his team had a strong showing on the field during the April 2 matchup, but the Huskies defeated the Wildcats in a spring game by a narrow 1-0 margin.
“It was a very end-to-end game and we easily could have won that game,” Welham said.
The Wildcats will return offensive weapons Caroline Murray who led the team in assists last season with five, and Brooke Murphy who tallied 11 goals for the
Wildcats during the 2014 season. Another notable return will be goalkeeper Mimi Borkan, who posted 7 shutouts along the way to the team’s America East crown.
“Everybody’s putting their best foot forward right now, so it’s fun,” Welham said. “It is a very healthy, competitive environment now.”