EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 17, 2013

Sports in a Minute

Dave Dyer
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Simpson picks UNH

Talented Londonderry senior Aliza Simpson, a 5-foot-9 guard who is the all-time assist leader for the Lancers, has officially signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball program.

“The coaching staff (at UNH) and the chance to play in my home state in front of my family and friends were the two biggest reasons I chose to play for UNH,” said Simpson, who has over 450 assists entering her senior season at Londonderry.

Timing is in Simpson’s favor as she will be replacing senior co-captain Kelsey Hogan of Nashua. Hogan, a point guard, is averaging 12 points this season for the Wildcats.

Simpson said Hogan’s departure means she’ll be able to fill the vacant point guard position. Simpson enters her senior year at Londonderry averaging 17 points, 9.5 assists, 5.5 steals and six rebounds a game. She chose UNH over the University of Rhode Island.

Byrd to play in spain

Pinkerton’s Rachel Byrd, who missed last year’s softball season with a knee injury, has been selected to play on a Seacoast team that will play in a series of international games next July in Spain.

The team was selected through nominations from Seacoast area coaches and will be coached by Windham’s Dave Hedge and Portsmouth’s Kim Grenon. Five of the players on the team play for Portsmouth.

Clark honored

At the annual New Hampshire cross country banquet held last week, veteran Pinkerton coach Mike Clark was honored as the Coach of the Year. From his team, Phil Parent was named all-state and Morgan Sansing and Ariel Vaillancourt were selected all-state from the Pinkerton girls team.

Jay Damren of Winnacunnet was named the girls Coach of the Year.

Frozen Four to Boston

This is good news for area college hockey fans. The TD Garden in Boston has been selected as the host site for the 2015 men’s hockey championships. Boston was also the host in 1998 and 2004.

The 2014 Frozen Four will be held in Philadelphia April 10 and April 12.

Struggling for fans

While the number of women’s college hockey teams is on the rise, with Merrimack College joining the ranks next year, fan interest has not been high.

Outside of some of the western powerhouses like Minnesota and Wisconsin, attendance is sparse. Of the 36 programs in Division 1, only 10 are drawing better than 500 fans a game.

While the UNH men sell out the 6,500-seat Whittemore Center regularly, for example, the Wildcat women fight for fans. They’ve averaged 334 in eight home games this year.

The UNH women, incidentally, recently released head coach Brian McCloskey five days after an incident on the bench during a home loss to Ohio State.

According to the university, McCloskey was fired following an investigation into an incident of “inappropriate physical contact with a player” on the bench.

Loving the distance

Despite the bitter cold, there were 912 finishers last Saturday at the Jingle Bell Half-Marathon in Atkinson, N.H. Jonathan Gault of Bedford came in first in 1:13:14. The top local finisher was Samuel Fazioli of Salem, N.H. in 1:16:09 while Jen Downing of Boston was the first female to cross the finish line, coming in 16th overall in 1:25:42.

The Toys for Tots races in Merrimac were called off by the unsafe conditions.