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April 06. 2014 5:22PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Simpler, faster defense for Wildcat football team

DURHAM -- THE University of New Hampshire’s football team got better on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 and part of the reason things improved was that the coaching staff instituted changes designed to allow the defense to play faster.

One of the goals for the current session of spring football, which conducted its first practice in pads and third overall on Saturday, is to ramp the speed up a bit more.

“We spent the offseason looking at everything we did and trying to evaluate that and we were looking at some things we saw when we looked at other people,” said defensive coordinator John Lyons. “We’re trying to really simplify what we’re doing. We changed some schemes and did some of that last year and want to do it even more so.”

The Wildcats will look to play faster and harder and continue to try and limit big plays and strive to get turnovers to get the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible.

“The feeling is to get it so the kids are thinking less and hopefully they’re playing faster and we don’t make mental mistakes,” Lyons said.

“I think we’ve streamlined it a little bit and have made things a little easier for them and they seem to be excited about that.”

There are 15 practice sessions total and UNH usually goes early on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.

Spring football concludes with the annual Blue-White game on Saturday, May 3.

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CHECK OUT UNH’s new website at www.unhstadium.com.

The site promotes a fundraising campaign for the proposed $25 million all-sports facility that will be the new home to the football team and features artists’ renditions of what’s to come.

The plan is to have lights installed and renovations completed on what is now the home side of the field in time for the 2014 season and to begin work on the entire facility when the season ends.

Athletics department officials plan to play games on the field while work is going on around it during the 2015 season and hope to open the new facility during that season.

UNH opens the 2014 season at Toledo on Aug. 30 and has six home games scheduled, starting with Lehigh on Sept. 13.

Game times have not yet been announced, but there is expected to be a mix of noon, late afternoon and evening games.

Other home games are on Sept. 27 against Dartmouth, Oct. 11 against William & Mary, Oct. 25 against Stony Brook, Nov. 1 against Albany and Nov. 15 against Delaware.

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FRESHMAN Meghan Pflieger turned in a personal best score of 9.875 in the vault to pace the gymnastics team to a fifth-place finish in the NCAA Regionals at Penn State on Saturday.

Top-ranked and defending national champion Florida took top honors in the regionals and will advance to the NCAA championships along with Penn State. The top two teams in each of six regionals move on.

The Wildcats, who won their second East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship in their previous meet, wrapped up their season.

Florida scored 197.050 to win and Penn State came in at 196.725.

Oregon State was third at 196.525, Kentucky followed at 195.925, UNH was at 195.025 and Maryland at 194.525.

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THE women’s track and field team finished first and the men were second to Maine in the first of back-to-back meets at UNH’s Reggie Atkins Track & Field Facility on Saturday.

The Wildcats host another meet on Saturday at 11 a.m. with teams from Dartmouth, Maine, Bowdoin, Fitchburg State and Babson expected to compete.Chelsey Serrano, a junior out of Raymond and Trinity of Manchester, junior Anne Twombly of Exeter and sophomore Lauren Perrodin led UNH to the win ahead of Northeastern, Maine and Holy Cross.

Serrano led UNH to a sweep of the top five spots in the 3000 meter run. Freshman Amanda Szymanski of Londonderry was second.

Perrodin won the 100 and 200 meter dashes and junior Morgan Costa won the 400.

Senior Stephanie Walsh of Penacook won the discus.

On the men’s side, George Jumpp, a senior out of Manchester Memorial, won the hammer. Freshman Chris Poggi of Dover and Drew Piazza went one-two in the 800 and sophomore D’mahl McFadden of Penacook was first in the 110 meter hurdles.

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THE lacrosse team evened up the America East portion of its record with an 8-2 win at UMBC on Saturday.

The Wildcats are 6-7 overall and have three games remaining on the next three Saturdays. They are home against Binghamton next Saturday, at Stony Brook on April 19 and home against Albany on April 26.

Seniors Molly Gaffey, a midfielder out of Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, and Cori Rees, a defender out of Hampstead and Pinkerton Academy in Derry, are two of the team’s three co-captains and have started each of UNH’s 13 games. Gaffey has scored 10 goals and has six assists.

alessels@unionleader.com On twitter: @AllenLessels


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