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November 04. 2012 10:34PM

Allan Lessels UNH Notebook: Wildcat gridders thinking tournament

DURHAM -- UNIVERSITY of New Hampshire football players checked their phones and tossed out scoring updates as they exited their locker room after Saturday's playoff-clinching win over William & Mary.

A Colonial Athletic Association game between Towson and Delaware topped the scoreboard watching.

Towson scored in the last minute to take the lead, then Delaware tied it with a field goal and finally Towson won the game in overtime.

"You don't want to look too much around the league," said senior captain and offensive lineman Chris Zarkoskie, after providing a Towson update. "You want to take care of your business in house. Thankfully, we did that today and if we continue to do that, things will fall into place."

Things have fallen into place nicely for the 2012 Wildcats, ranked No. 11 in the country last week, and they are headed to the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision tournament for the ninth straight season, which is the longest current streak in the nation.

Saturday's 28-25 win was the Wildcats' first over William & Mary since 1998 and improved their record to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the CAA.

Nothing will be official until the NCAA selection committee announces the field and pairings for the 20-team tournament on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 18, but UNH's eight wins should be plenty to secure a spot in the event.

The Wildcats had Sunday off and today host their fifth annual bone marrow drive for the National Marrow Donor Program Be the Match Registry from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Holloway Commons (more information is available by contacting bobby.callahan@unh.edu).

They do not play next Saturday and then close out the regular season with a home game on Nov. 17 against Towson, and thus the particular interest in that game after UNH took care of its business against William & Mary.

Towson knocked off UNH, 56-42, last year in Maryland and is the defending champion in the league and was the pre-season pick in the coaches' poll to repeat.

"They're a very good team and a very physical team and last year they took it to us on the defensive side of the ball," said UNH coach Sean McDonnell.

Towson has struggled, though, and is 5-4 and 4-2 and needed Saturday's win over Delaware to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Tigers play winless Rhode Island at home on Saturday and if they win that one will face another must win the next week in Durham.

"If they lose one of these games, they're out of the playoffs," Zarkoskie said. "So they're fighting for their playoff lives and we're fighting for a championship."

UNH is looking for its first outright CAA championship since 1994.

The Wildcats lead the league with that 6-1 mark and James Madison is at 5-1. Old Dominion is also 5-1, but is on its way up to the Football Bowl Subdivision next year and is ineligible for the league title or the automatic bid it carries to the NCAA tournament.

James Madison is at Villanova on Saturday and finishes up with a home game against Old Dominion on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.

UNH earns at least a share of the championship with a win against Towson and can own the title alone if it wins and James Madison falters in either game.

The Wildcats will also likely improve their draw and seeding in the tournament with a win. The NCAA, less than impressed by UNH's facilities, has not been inclined to give the team home games in the tournament.

The latest projected bracket put out by The Sports Network on Sunday predicted that New Hampshire would receive a first-round bye in the tournament and play a second-round match at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C.

______


Robert Palumbo, a junior out of Kingston and Sanborn Regional, converted his penalty kick to lead the soccer team to a quarterfinal win at Albany in the America East tournament on Saturday night.

The teams had played through regulation and overtimes to a 0-0 draw and UNH ended up winning 5-4 in penalty kicks to advance.

The No. 5 seed in the tournament, UNH is now 6-7-5 and advances to a semifinal game at No. 1 Vermont on Wednesday at 1 p.m. The teams tied 0-0 in Burlington on Oct. 20.

No. 3 Stony Brook is at No. 2 UMBC in the other semifinal on Wednesday. The championship game is next weekend at the home field of the higher seed remaining in the event.

______


The women's hockey team, 3-6-0 overall and 1-2-0 in Hockey East, is at Dartmouth, 4-1-0 overall and 3-1-0 in the ECAC, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. . . . The men's basketball team opens the season with home game against Suffolk on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Wildcats start a stretch of five road games at Dartmouth on Nov. 13. . . . The women's basketball team begins with a game at Yale on Nov. 14.

alessels@unionleader.com

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