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Wildcats ride strong regular season finish into playoff bout

The UNH field hockey team will challenge the University of Pacific Tigers in the America East quarterfinals this Friday, Nov. 4 in Stockton, California to begin the America East conference tournament. The Wildcats take on the Tigers for the eighth time in program history sporting a 5-2 overall record. In last year’s matchup, the Wildcats fell 2-1 to the Tigers.


Tale of the Tape

The Wildcats, who ended with four wins in their last five games, claimed the three seed in the East division and most recently beat intrastate rival Dartmouth 6-2 behind senior captain Lindsey Nerbonne’s hat trick.

For the Wildcats, the offense will have to be instrumental led by Nerbonne and forward Ashley Mendonca. The ‘Cats do have the offensive power to compete with a strong Tigers team, but it will be a challenge. Pacific has the second-highest offense in the country (4.66 goals/game) which is right behind the University of Connecticut (5.00 goals/game). Nerbonne and Mendonca have a combined 24 goals and 51 points to lead the Wildcats, while Gianna Bensaia has 13 assists to rank third in points (15) behind them.

“It is a good matchup. We felt we played well against them last year and had opportunities to score on them. They’re a very strong team with strong individual performers, international players that play at a very high level for their countries. It will pose a challenge in terms of overall individual skill,” head coach Robin Balducci said.

For the Tigers, they’re led by Kriekie van Wyk, Ash Rutherford, Emma Leach and Savannah Burns. These four players stole the show this year and broke Pacific’s program record for assists in one year as all of them recorded 10 or more. Van Wyk and Rutherford tied the school record with 13 each. Also, Van Wyk recorded the second-most goals and second-most points in Pacific history, with 19 goals and 51 points. 

“Our real philosophy will be that we will have to play consistent team play that makes us successful,” Balducci said. “It is a good matchup, and sometimes if we play a team that is unknown is little more worrisome, but with this we feel okay.”


            In the Cage

The Tigers will have senior Laura Pujade in the cage. Pujade has started 17 of 18 games this year posting a 1.81 goals against average and has made 49 saves.

The Wildcats, who have made it to four consecutive America East tournaments, will have Kelsey Rudert making her first postseason start. Rudert started all 18 games this season and has a 2.58 goals against average and has made 79 saves.

“I’m a big proponent that a little bit of nerve is not a bad thing. I don’t think [Rudert] necessarily is [nervous],” Balducci said. “She has put in some great performances this season and the team has confidence in her. She has shown all season that she is progressing and maturing. I think she is ready to go.”

The game will be played at 5:30 ET on Friday, Nov. 4.

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