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NH Division I women's basketball preview: Wildcats want to take the next step
University of New Hampshire women's basketball coach Maureen Magarity talks to Kelsey Hogan, of Nashua, during a game against Quinnipiac University at Lundholm Gymnasium last season. (UNION LEADER FILE)
DURHAM - The University of New Hampshire women's basketball team took a major step forward last season.
Now the Wildcats want more.
"The coaches have raised the bar and bumped it up a notch," said Kelsey Hogan, the junior captain out of Nashua North. "I personally feel we can only go up from here."
The Wildcats were 16-14 overall and 9-7 in America East last year for their first winning record since 2005-06.
"I think last year was a really big step," said senior center Morgan Frame. "I think we really showed a lot of teams - we beat Hartford here by quite a bit - that we can play with a lot of teams that they didn't think we could. We're really excited to prove that again."
The Wildcats open the season on Wednesday night at Yale.
The 64-45 win over Hartford snapped UNH's 18-game losing streak to the Hawks. The Wildcats also swept series over Maine, Vermont and Stony Brook.
Frame averaged a team-leading 16 points and had 7.5 rebounds a game last year after becoming eligible at mid-season following her transfer from St. Anselm College.
Hogan was at 10.2 points a game.
The Wildcats return three of their top four scorers, two of their top three rebounders and four of their starters.
The one loss in that mix is a big one.
Forward Denise Beliveau closed out her outstanding career averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds a game as a senior.
"That's a lot to fill," said third-year coach Maureen Magarity. "Not only in points, but in rebounding and she was on the league's all-defensive team and was our best three-point shooter and was a great leader. She did everything."
Beliveau also attracted a lot of attention from defenses, much of which will now go to Frame.
The Wildcats have a nice core of veterans, including senior guard Cari Reed, and also have back senior guard Lauren Wells, who missed all of last season because of injury.
Magarity said the team will need several younger players to play important roles as well.
A likely starting lineup includes Hogan, Wells, Reed, Frame and Kaylee Kilpatrick, a 6-foot-4 sophomore center.
Kilpatrick had a good pre-season and Magarity likes the idea of playing her alongside the 6-foot-1 Frame for a bigger frontcourt.
Sophomore guard Ariel Gaston, who started nine games last year, returns and freshman guard Elizabeth Belanger will likely be one of the first players off the bench.
Junior Sarah Frankenberger is out with a knee injury.
The Wildcats are at Holy Cross on Saturday, play at Boston College on Nov. 20 and face Cornell on Nov. 25 in their first home game.
Dartmouth got its season off to a nice start with a 64-53 win at Bryant on Saturday. The win avenged a 63-45 loss at Bryant at home last season.
Sophomore guard Kamala Thompson led the young Big Green with 17 points in the opener.
Chris Wielgus, in her 28th season at Dartmouth, has seven freshmen on the roster.
Senior guard Faziah Steen led the Big Green at 15.4 points game last season and is a three-time All-Ivy selection. Sophomore center Tia Dawson had a team-leading seven rebounds last year.
The Big Green, who won the most recent of its 17 league titles in 2009, will try to rebound from a 6-22 overall season that included a 4-10 record in the Ivy League.
Dartmouth plays BYU at home today at 5 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader that includes the Dartmouth-UNH men's game at 7.