TNH's Annual Wildcat Sports Award
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Team of the Year
For the second year in a row, the UNH field hockey team will be able to lay claim to the title of UNH’s team of the year. And much like last year, this year’s squad is no less deserving than last years’ team.
The Wildcats kicked off the season with an excellent start in August and September, winning their first eight games. During the stretch of UNH’s season, the team outscored its opponents, 35-6.
In America East play, UNH went 4-1 against conference foes with its sole loss coming at the hands of then No. 18-ranked Albany, with the margin of defeat being one goal.
What makes this year’s field hockey team so special, though, is the fact that this season’s squad was able to make the NCAA tournament for the ninth time in school history, and the first time since the 2000 season.
To get there, the Wildcats tied a school record for wins in a single season, going 17-5 overall. The team’s record-tying win came in the America East tournament finals, where UNH defeated BU, 4-2.
The win gave UNH its second America East Championship, and the first one since the 1998 season.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their national title hopes were dashed against top-seeded North Carolina.
For these reasons, UNH field hockey is clearly the best of 2011-2012.
Most Valuable Players
Kevin Decker, Football
Senior Kevin Decker may have seen his UNH career come to a devastating finish, as the football team fell to Montana State in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs, but the talented quarterback had a season to remember.
The CAA Offensive Player of the year led a Wildcats offense that led the CAA in total offense (308.4 yards per game) and in passing offense (272.7 yards per game). Those numbers ranked ninth and 13th in the entire FCS.
He did this with a CAA-leading 3,272 passing yards, which ranked 10th in the entire FCS. In addition to his yardage explosion, Decker contributed 22 touchdowns with 15 interceptions during the campaign.
His efforts were rewarded at the end of the season, as the team selected him as the MVP for the year. Decker was all named a honorable mention for the College Sports Journal FCS All-America Team and was tabbed as the QB for the All-New England First Team.
Decker is currently waiting to see if an offer from a professional team arises.
Whitney Frates, Field Hockey
Much like last year, Whitney Frates was able to claim to the MVP award for the second year in a row. This time around, Frates was second on the team in points (57) and goals (23), and she was tied for first on the team with 11 assists.
For her efforts, the team captain was named the ECAC Offensive Player of the Year, and was also ECAC All-Star First Team. In addition to those accolades, Frates was named to the NFHCA Northeast Region First Team.
Her play on the field was critical for the Wildcats’ historic season, contributing six game-winning goals, which was tied for first among the team.
She was a pivotal player to a special squad, helping UNH reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2000 season.
With this being her final season in Durham, the Wildcats will have to find a way to make up for the loss of Frates offense. Not only that though, head coach Robin Balducci is going to also have a tough time trying to replace the leadership Whitney Frates offered to the team of the year.
Rookie of the Year
Casey DeSmith, Men's Hockey
Freshman Casey DeSmith’s rise to this title of rookie of the year would have be laughed at when the men’s hockey season started back in October.
That was because the UNH had senior Matt DiGirolamo, who was dubbed by many as the nation’s best collegiate goaltender, was in net. Nobody would have thought he would have struggled in the like he did.
Yet that is precisely what happened, and by December head coach Dick Umile was able to take a chance on DeSmith.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Umile’s leap of faith in DeSmith paid off. With his opportunity, DeSmith registered 623 saves, allowed 50 goals and had a GAA of 2.33 in 22 appearances.
With such a strong performance, DeSmith has UNH fans optimistic heading into next year after what was historically poor performance by the Wildcats.
This is with good reason though, and with DeSmith behind the net for the next three years the Wildcats are in good hands moving forward.
Laura Puccia, Women's Lacrosse
Despite a relatively disappointing season by the women’s lacrosse team, with the team missing the America East tournament with a 2-4 conference record, freshman Laura Puccia offered a bright spot to head coach Michael Daly and the Wildcats.
Puccia played a major role offensively for UNH, which struggled throughout the season to come up with consistent offense. In 16 games this season, Puccia contributed 34 goals and 7 assists for 41 points this season.
Those 41 points and 34 goals were best for amongst the team, a good sign heading into next season for a UNH squad that is looking to improve.