Back-to-Back: No. 8 Field Hockey Downs No. 19 Maine 2-0 to Take America East Tournament Crown
ALBANY, N.Y.- No. 8 University at Albany field hockey (19-2) captured its second consecutive and fifth overall America East title on Sunday afternoon in a 2-0 victory over Maine (19-4). The Great Danes out-scored their opponents 14-1 in the America East tournament to earn the league’s automatic NCAA bid.
“To get back to the championship with the new conference alignment and the depth of our competition was awesome,” said head coach Phil Sykes. “We definitely wanted to take it one day at a time, because anything can happen with eight teams in a tournament. This is a great Maine team we played; I’m proud of the way we battled and we’re looking forward to the NCAA Tournament.”
With nerves and wind a factor early in the game, Liza Morgan registered the only shot on goal in the first 10 minutes. Paula Heuser adjusted quickly to being heavily marked in the middle of the field, earning herself a penalty stroke in the 10th minute. The defending NFHCA National Player of the Year buried the stroke for a 1-0 UAlbany lead.
Momentum in hand, Bottino, Heuser and Morgan continued to press forward. But the Black Bears battled back to earn two penalty corners. The first was blocked at the defensive line, and Maxi Primus thwarted the second with a glove save.
Just as Maine began to pick up the pace up front, UAlbany responded with a second goal. Bottino worked her way to the right end line, firing up a pass towards the cage. Fellow sophomore Kelsey Briddell stood ready at the far post, and she beat the Maine goalkeeper to make it 2-0 UAlbany with less than five minutes to go in the first half.
The Danes earned all three of their second-half penalty corners in the first 20 minutes of the period. Frederike Helmke had a shot saved in the 46th minute, and the Purple & Gold continued searching for an extra insurance goal.
Maine briefly found a loophole to earn a penalty corner with seven minutes to go. A save by Primus and a clear off the stick of Jaclyn Hibbs kept the Black Bears at bay. After Josette Babineau pulled her goalkeeper with less than four minutes left, UAlbany retained possession for the win.
The Purple & Gold sealed the America East automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, set to begin on Nov. 11 with Play-In games. The No. 8 Danes took their fifth overall, second consecutive America East title and third in the last four seasons. Field hockey’s fifth title marks the 77th America East and 84th overall conference championship for UAlbany in the Division I era.
Anna Bottino got the Most Outstanding Performer nod with 10 points in the tournament. She joined teammates Paula Heuser, Jaclyn Hibbs and Fiori Van Rijswijk on the All-Tournament team. Taylor Schwoyer was named the Elite 18 Award winner for the second consecutive season.
Phil Sykes & co., will learn their fate in the NCAA Tournament tonight at 10:00pm. The NCAA selection show will be broadcast on NCAA.com.
AMERICA EAST CHAMPIONSHIP ACCOLADES:
Most Outstanding Performer:
Anna Bottino, So., M
Taylor Schwoyer, 3.94, Human Biology