BACK-TO-BACK: UAlbany Women’s Soccer Repeats as America East Champion with 2-1 Victory over Hartford in Title Game
ALBANY, N.Y. – The 1-seed UAlbany women’s soccer team has climbed to the top of the America East mountain again, coming back to defeat 2-seed Hartford 2-1 for its second consecutive conference title at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on Sunday night.
UAlbany (11-7-1) came back from a one-goal deficit with scores in the 44th by Kiana Rugar and the 76th minute by Vivian Vega, each assisted by Gina Bracamonte, for the victory over Hartford (13-5-1). UAlbany becomes the first women’s soccer program to earn back-to-back America East titles since Boston University did in 2010 and 2011.
“It is absolutely amazing, and the fact we were able to do it on our home field in front of our family and friends is remarkable,” said UAlbany head coach Caitlin Cucchiella, at the helm of both conference titles. “The fact that the girls knew we always have a better second half, and I knew we were going to come back.”
“It feels unreal,” said Paltsios. “I couldn’t imagine after freshman year, winning two games, to now being back-to-back champions, just incredible.”
UAlbany has earned an automatic bid into the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes will find out where they are going on Monday, November 7th at 4:30 p.m. during the NCAA selection show on NCAA.com.
In an even battle under the lights at Casey Stadium, UAlbany had 14 shots to Hartford’s 12. UAlbany put eight of those shots on goal to Hartford’s five.
Chloe Borasky earned the victory in goal for UAlbany with four saves, notching her ninth win in the cage for the Great Danes this season.
Vega earned her 20th goal of her collegiate career, moving her into second all-time in UAlbany women’s soccer history.
“It feels so amazing, way better than any other goal I’ve ever scored,” said Vega. “It is so awesome that we won, I knew we could do it.”
Rugar, who is UAlbany’s all-time assists leader, scored her sixth goal of the season. Bracamonte now has three assists on the year. Alexa Schneider had four shots in the game, putting three on cage, while Williams had three and Meghan Cavanaugh had two.
For Hartford, Caitlin Smallfield earned her fourth goal of the season off a corner kick from Julia Carr in the 23rd minute. Jessica Jurg got the loss in the cage, saving six shots.
As each side was looking to establish the offense early, Caroline Kopp went for the net on a corner kick in the opening minutes, missing high. That was the only shot in the opening 10 minutes.
In minute 11, UAlbany broke down the left side and got Schneider near the post. She headed the ball to Rugar for a close kick, with Jurg making a save.
UAlbany peppered the goal with long range shots, with Jurg saving one from Schneider and another from Cavanaugh missing high off a free kick.
In minute 23, Hartford sent a corner kick towards the goal box. Smallfield headed the ball inside the left post for the goal, putting the Hawks up 1-0.
UAlbany kept on the attack, with a free kick to Schneider being headed towards the cage, with Jurg making the save.
Bracamonte got a pass in the 44th minute and fired the ball towards the box. Rugar took it, turned and shot towards the right post for the goal, equalizing the scorer at 1-1 for the half.
Each side tried early long range shots against the other’s keeper in the early part of the second half, with both missing wide.
Twice, Schneider got some space from outside the box on the left side and took aim. First went wide right, the second was saved by Jurg.
The visitors tried to strike back with Carr putting a long range shot towards the cage, with Borasky making the save in the middle.
Both teams battled as the defenses prevented shots for a long stretch. Hartford tried a quick counter as Bridgette Alexander took a shot and was blocked, later missing again wide.
In the 77th minute, Bracamonte passed to Vega from the right side to the middle. From 10 yards out, Vega kicked on the first touch, scoring inside the right post for the goal past a diving keeper, giving UAlbany a 2-1 advantage.
Hartford got a corner kick attempt less than a minute later, with UAlbany clearing it out. Hartford had one final gasp in the final seconds as Carr sent a kick towards the left post, with Borasky punching the ball away. UAlbany held the 2-1 victory for its second straight America East title.
The UAlbany women’s soccer team is the first school program to earn a league title in the 2016-17 season.
UAlbany had earned its berth into the America East title game with a 1-0 victory over 4-seed UNH in the league semifinals.