UNH Insider: Let the games begin for Wildcats in 2019-20

UNH Insider
Published: 8/21/2019 8:52:13 PM

And here we go.

The women’s soccer game at home against Rhode Island on Thursday night kicks off UNH’s athletics calendar for 2019-20.

“We’re ready,” UNH women’s soccer coach Steve Welham said. “It’s fun. It’s great to be leading off the season. We hope we can get things off on the right foot.”

Thursday night’s contest is the first of some 320 games, matches or meets – give or take several depending on how postseason tournaments play out – some 525 Wildcat athletes will compete in over the next nine months, seeking regular-season success along with league, holiday, regional and national championships.

Men’s soccer, field hockey, cross country, volleyball and football teams will follow in short order and women’s and men’s hockey get going not long after that.

The men’s soccer team opens defense of the program’s first America East tournament title with a home a game against Boston University in Wildcat Stadium on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.

It was last Nov. 11 when the men’s soccer team rocked UMBC, 5-0, in Wildcat Stadium to grab that championship and a second straight berth in the NCAA tournament.

In 2016, coach Marc Hubbard’s team advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tourney for the first time.

Junior standout Josh Bauer and the Wildcats will be out to make it three straight appearances in the NCAAs this fall and make their deepest tournament run yet.

The UNH football team, aiming to launch another streak of winning seasons, plays its first home game Sept. 21 against Rhode Island at 6 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium on Youth Sports Night.

The Wildcats play their season opener at Holy Cross on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.

The football team plays its Blue-White game to wrap up fall camp on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Coach Robin Balducci’s field hockey team opens the season on the road with games at American University on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 at the University of Maryland.

The Wildcats play their first home game against Holy Cross on Sept. 8 at 1 p.m.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams host their traditional Labor Day weekend meet against Providence College and Holy Cross on Aug. 31. It’s the only home meet for the teams during the season.

Volleyball plays its first games under new head coach Chris Feliciano in a tournament at Army West Point on Labor Day weekend. On Aug. 31, the Wildcats play Rhode Island at 3 p.m. and Army West Point at 6 p.m. They play Iona the next day at West Point.

UNH plays Bryant at home on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. and then hosts the Holly Young Invitational Sept. 5-7 in Lundholm Gymnasium.

The Wildcats open the tournament against Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. and play Holy Cross on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 and Brown on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 12:30 p.m.

Feliciano, who broke program records in coaching the last eight seasons at Rider University, is one of two new UNH head coaches this year. He replaces Jill Hirschinger, who won seven America East championships in her 23 seasons with the program before retiring after last season.

Gymnastics coach Lindsey Bruck Ayotte, who takes over for the retired Gail Goodspeed, is also in her first year. Ayotte, an All-American gymnast out of the University of Michigan, was the associate head coach under Goodspeed for the last three seasons and also had an earlier stint as an assistant with the Wildcats.

Goodspeed went out with a bang, leading UNH to its seventh league championship with an extremely close and emotional victory in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championships last March at the Whittemore Center.

The EAGL title was another highlight of the 2018-19 season.

Thursday, the task of forging 2019-20 memories begins in Wildcat Stadium with women’s soccer.

“It’s so early, we’re still just scratching the surface at the tip of the iceberg to see what we have and there are so many areas we want to work on, but what we see already is a lot of improvement in the short time we’ve been together,” said Welham of his soccer team. “We’re excited to see how far we can take this group together.”

Ditto for a program full of teams.

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