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November 17. 2012 9:59PM

Jim Fennell's NH College Notebook: NH women's basketball players abound on NE-10 squads

The Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball season is underway and it has a distinct Granite State flavor.

Sixteen players from New Hampshire, including freshman guard Katie Stopera of Hollis, are spread out among nine NE-10 teams. Stopera is starting at Southern Connecticut State University, a program that doesn't usually look this far north for players.

The impact of these players has been noticeable and that was evident Wednesday when Bentley played at UMass Lowell.

Junior guard Christiana Bakolas of Manchester (Central) started for Bentley and freshman swing players Amra Elezovic of Manchester (Memorial) started for UMass Lowell. Coming off the bench was a pair of freshman guards, Jane White of Amherst (Souhegan) for Bentley and Melissa Frase of Tamworth (Kennett/New Hampton) for UMass Lowell.

Senior forward Amanda Saab of Windham (Salem) starts for Franklin Pierce, senior forward Curran Leighton of Dover starts for St. Anselm and sophomore guard Brooke Springfield of Jaffrey (Conant) starts for Southern New Hampshire, while senior guard Deb LaValley of Rochester (Spaulding) and junior forward Kelly Chergey of Bow come off the bench for the Penmen.

Sophomore forward Caitlin Ackerman of Nashua (South) sees significant minutes for Assumption and sophomore guard Ashley Gendron of Auburn (Memorial) is a key reserve for Stonehill.

Coaches agree that high school players are getting more exposure to college recruiters through AAU programs. That exposure has opened to door to more Division I and Division II programs in the region that, unlike Division III programs, are allowed to give athletic scholarships. Sixteen of the 18 Divisions II programs in New England are in the NE-10.

SNHU coach Karen Pinkos remembers there was one AAU program that the better players in the state would all tryout for when she was growing up in Pembroke. Now there is a handful.

"These kids start playing AAU the minute their high school season ends," Pinkos said.

UMass Lowell coach Sarah Behn said she and her staff first saw Elezovic and Frase playing for the same AAU team.

Pinkos said the past two years have been particularly strong for New Hampshire; 10 of the New Hampshire players in the NE-10 are either freshmen or sophomores.

"I'm a New Hampshire kid, so I love to see this," Pinkos said.

Six of the 16 teams in the NE-10 are in Massachusetts and Behn said the competition for players in that state can be daunting, so she is more than happy to find less recruited players for New Hampshire to go after.

"New Hampshire high school and AAU basketball in the state is very strong right now," Behn said. "It's a good place to recruit."

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SHORT HOPS: A pair of New Hampshire runners helped the Bates College women's cross country team reach Saturday's NCAA Division III championship in Terre Haute, Ind. Freshman Hannah Zeltner of Bedford was 35th at last week's regional meet, while junior Mira Carey-Hatch of Laconia was 39th. ... A good week got even better for Bates junior kicker Charlie Donahue when he was named All-NESCAC second team. Donahue was also named the conference special teams player of the week after setting a program record for accuracy by going 9-for-9 on field goal attempts this season. Bates teammate Andy Kukesh, a junior safety from Exeter who tied for the conference lead with six interceptions, was named to the first team. ... Middlebury senior Lauren Greer of North Hampton dominated the NESCAC headlines in field hockey this season, but she wasn't the only Granite State athlete making an impact in the conference. Tufts junior midfielder Emily Cannon of Atkinson joined Greer on the all-conference first team. Greer was named player of the year for the second straight season after leading the country in scoring. ... Freshman guard Ashley Giampetruzzi of Manchester (Central) had an impressive collegiate debut, scoring 19 points and 14 rebounds and almost helping Daniel Webster rally in an opening night loss to MCLA. ... Former Londonderry High basketball player Kristen Love is a graduate assistant at North Texas State, serving as the assistant director of operations for the women's basketball team.

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THE BEYOND THE BORDERS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Dylan Lafond of Manchester (Central). Lafond has had a record-setting season for the Mount Olive men's cross country team, helping the Trojans reach Saturday's NCAA Division II championships Saturday in Joplin, Mo. Mount Olive qualified for the nationals by finishing second in the Southeast Region and, as he has done for most of the season, Lafond led the way by finishing seventh in a time of 32:07.7 on the 10K course at McAlpine Creek park in Charlotte, N.C. He was third individually as Mount Olive won the Conference Carolinas championship in October and broke the program's 8K record at the Royals Challenge in Charlotte. Lafond is joined on the Mount Olive team by former Central teammate Sean Brown of Manchester, also a freshman.

New Hampshire College Notebook appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Emai Jim Fennell at jfennell@unionleader.com.

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