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WNIT berth creates ‘stepping stone’ to promising future

After the best regular season in program history, countless records set, clinching the number one seed in the conference tournament and hosting a home game in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), what is next for the UNH women’s basketball program?

Head coach Maureen Magarity joined the Wildcat family in the 2010-2011 season and since then, the program has progressed every season. This season was the culmination of her, and her staff’s, success.

With a 26-6 record, UNH set the single season record for number of wins in school history; the previous mark was set at 23 wins. The team also won the programs first ever outright regular season America East conference championship. Although the season came to an end with a 69-56 loss to Harvard in the first round of the WNIT, Magarity and the ‘Cats are happy with the season overall.

“Overall it doesn’t take away what this team has accomplished this year. It’s been a really fun ride and I’m really proud of the girls,” Magarity said following the season-ending loss to Harvard. “Hopefully this is definitely a stepping stone into next year.” 

As a reward for all of their success in the regular season, the ‘Cats were the top seed in the America East tournament. After a win over Stony Brook in the first round, the Wildcats fell to the Maine Black Bears in the semifinals, 61-52.

With an impressive 14-2 record at home, Magarity’s team has brought a winning culture to Durham. Last season the ‘Cats were inconsistent, losing nine games in a row over winter vacation, but this season was quite the opposite as UNH won 13 games in a row during the middle stretch of the season.

Aliza Simpson is one of seven juniors set to return for the Wildcat basketball team next season, adding some strong depth.

Forward Carlie Pogue was named the America East Conference Player of the Year this season, and she’s a junior. Pogue will have one more season in Durham after the best season of her career. Magarity complimented Pogue’s offseason work, her leadership and how dominant she was on both ends of the court all season.

That’s not all for returning fire power. Marist transfers Brittni Lai and Kat Fogarty are ready for their senior season’s in a Wildcat uniform. Lai took command of the point guard position and ran the offense all season. She started all 30 games she played, averaging 11 points and three assists per game. Olivia Healy, Aliza Simpson and Peyton Booth all return to join Lai in the backcourt, which will provide the ‘Cats with plenty of guard depth.

As this memorable season came to an anticlimactic close, 20/20 hindsight has set in. The Wildcats, although they excelled in America East play, still need to focus on improving their play before next season.

“If we don’t come out guns blazing and everything next year, they’re going to be upset because they’ve built this program up to what it is today,” Healy said. “Even walking down the hallway [Lai] was like ‘we got next year’ so I think the whole mentality of the team is next year, but actually it’s starting in two weeks” 

With Magarity at the helm, the breakout year of Pogue and the fantastic supporting cast of Fogarty, Lai and Healy, UNH looks poised to defend its regular season America East crown and make another run at the America East tournament title and a potential automatic berth into next year’s NCAA Tournament. 

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