Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: 'Finish' the theme for next football season
DURHAM -- NORTH DAKOTA STATE and Sam Houston State universities have what New Hampshire wants: berths in next month's NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship game.
While the Bison and Bearkats prepare for a rematch of last year's title game in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 5, UNH coach Sean McDonnell and his staff are at work restocking their roster and gearing up for a series of recruiting weekends that begin on Martin Luther King weekend that will bring prospects to campus for official visits.
Recruiting and rethinking are among the tasks ahead.
A bunch of things went well in a season that featured a six-game winning streak, an 8-4 record, a share of the Colonial Athletic Association championship and a nation's-best ninth straight appearance in FCS playoffs.
But it was another season, too, that ended in disappointing fashion with a 23-7 second-round playoff loss at Wofford. Wofford then lost to North Dakota State, the defending champion, in the quarterfinals, 14-7.
"Again it comes down to we've been here for a bunch of years," McDonnell said. "How do you get better? How do you do it? Got to go back and rethink. I thought we did some really good things in the offseason last year to prepare for this season. It showed. You just didn't finish. That word is probably going to be a major, major, major part of our discussions, themes, beliefs in the next six, seven months of our being around here. Finish."
The players are on their own now, away from the coaching staff, for a few more weeks into January and it's an important time for them to lift and work out and keep developing and then they'll turn to winter workouts as a team.
Already, McDonnell said, he's excited about what's to come in the spring, especially for what's ahead at the quarterback position.
"I can't wait for the spring," the coach said. "I can't wait. There's going to be great competition for that position, again."
Quarterback was a position of concern going into this season, but redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich and Andy Vailas, a sophomore out of Bedford and Bishop Guertin of Nashua, stepped up and both played well.
Goldrich edged Vailas for the starting job coming out of fall camp. Vailas started five straight games after Goldrich was injured in the second game against Minnesota. Goldrich came back and started later and the Wildcats also used both quarterbacks in several games, sometimes at the same time.
The starting job is up for grabs again.
"We don't even have to discuss it," McDonnell said. "The quarterback position is wide open."
Goldrich and Vailas both handled the situation and sharing the job very well, McDonnell said, competing and at the same time helping each other out.
He's not inclined to have them share the position as much as they did this season.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll see how it goes. I don't anticipate it. I thought at times it worked really, really well and I thought at times it may have taken away from the continuity in the offense."
THREE of the next five games for the No. 2-ranked UNH hockey team are against teams ranked in the top 10, starting at No. 10 Dartmouth on Dec. 30.
The Wildcats play in the Big Green's Ledyard National Bank Classic for the first time in a dozen years. UNH, 11-2-2, plays the host team at 7 p.m. in the first round of the tournament. Massachusetts and Bemidji State play in the first game at 4.
Championship and consolation games will be played on Dec. 31.
Dartmouth has announced a time change for the second day of the tournament: UNH will play at 4 and Dartmouth will play at 7, no matter the winner of the first-round game.
The Big Green are off to a 7-2-2 start.
UNH lost to Dartmouth, 6-3, in the first round in its last game in the Ledyard Classic on Dec. 29, 2000. The Wildcats beat Miami, 4-0, in the consolation game that year.
After the Dartmouth tournament, UNH plays Rensselaer at home on Jan. 5 and then has a home-and-home series with No. 1-ranked Boston College. UNH is at BC on Jan. 11 and the teams meet the next night in Durham.
THE women's basketball team will look to bounce back from a tough game tonight when it takes on Wagner in Lundholm Gymnasium at 7.
UNH is 4-5 and has lost four of its last five games.
The Wildcats fell at home to Central Connecticut State, 43-32, last time out on Dec. 9. They were 0-for-17 in three-pointers that day and had 27 turnovers.
Wagner is 1-6 and coming off a rough outing, too, having lost at Syracuse, 66-28, on Dec. 4.
UNH won at Wagner, 73-72 in overtime, last season.