UAlbany Women’s Soccer Earns First-Ever America East Title with 2-1 Comeback Victory at Hartford
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The UAlbany women’s soccer team earned its first-ever league title in dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon, rallying with two goals in the final nine minutes to notch the 2-1 victory at Hartford to win the 2015 America East Championship.
UAlbany (11-8-1), which has earned its winningest season in its Division I history and tying the most-ever in 1981 with 11 victories, has earned a berth into the 2015 NCAA Tournament and will find out its first opponent during the selection show on Monday, November 9th at 4:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
The Great Danes were down 1-0 with nine minutes remaining against Hartford (11-4-4) at Al-Marzook Field at Alumni Stadium. Allison Carhart netted a goal in the 82nd minute off a Caitlyn Paltsios free kick, then Kelly Kempf scored the eventual game-winner off a scrum from long range in the 88th minute. Carhart and Kempf, each seniors, came off the bench during the game and earned their goals.
“Winning the America East title feels incredible, and it was a collective effort,” said UAlbany head coach Caitlin Cucchiella, who takes the Great Danes to a league title in her third season at the helm. “The team decided, no matter what the situation, that they would stay focused and get the win.”
“I know a ball went up into the air, and I just took my chance and went for it,” said Kempf of her game-winning goal. “We knew we had to stay positive to come back, and it is the best feeling in the world to win.”
“It feels absolutely amazing, and it is one of the happiest moments of my life,” said Carhart. “We have worked so hard this year and put a lot past us, and it feels great.”
UAlbany will enter the 2015 NCAA Tournament having won its last five games, including two comeback wins in the America East Tournament.
In the game, UAlbany outshot Hartford 13-6, including 10-1 in the second half. Alana Olivieri earned her fifth straight victory in goal, playing all 90 minutes.
Aaliyah Ingram scored Hartford’s goal in the 6th minute off an arc shot off a feed from Kylie Hoang. Jessica Jung got the loss in goal, saving four shots in 90 minutes.
In the first half, UAlbany primarily played with possession while Hartford went for quick strike counter attacks.
In the sixth minute, Ingram got the feed outside the box near the right corner from Hoang. Ingram kicked a high-arcing shot over the jumping Olivieri inside the right post to make it 1-0 Hartford.
UAlbany picked up the pace as the minutes went on, putting some pressure on the Hartford back line. Mariah Williams and Krista Fitzpatrick each tried to connect on crosses, but the Great Danes could not get shots on either.
Paltsios took a corner kick in the 21st minute and placed the feed just outside the goal box. Williams put a header on the ball, just missing above the crossbar. Williams almost had another chance on a later feed from Belak, but the ball was picked up by Hartford before a shot came off.
Hartford had another counter attack in the 35th minute as a blocked shot eventually turned into a corner. After UAlbany defended against the corner, Elise Galipo tried a ground ball shot from outside the box, missing left. The two teams went into halftime with Hartford leading 1-0.
Early in the second half, UAlbany pressed and got four corner kicks in less than eight minutes. On the fourth, Hartford cleared outside the penalty box. Kopp blasted the ball back in towards the left post, missing just left in the 54th minute.
On a fifth attempt, Fitzpatrick’s feed bounced in the box to Paltsios. Paltsios kicked off the second touch as Jurg made the stop.
UAlbany kept getting possession but was unable to penetrate the Hartford back line on crosses. Kiana Rugar got a look in the 70th minute and had a long curling shot towards the right corner of the goal, missing high. Minutes later, Williams shot a line drive to the left post with a falling Jurg saving the ball.
The chances kept coming for UAlbany as on a free kick, Kopp got the feed alone in the penalty box. She got tangled with a defender and lost the ball as the chance ended.
Hartford got a look the other way as the Hawks went for a quick strike. Sidney Spremullo fired hard at the net from long range, sailing the ball high.
In the 82nd minute, Paltsios sent a free kick into the box. The ball got loose as the keeper went forward. Carhart got a tap on the ball, turned around and put it into the net for the score, tying the game at 1-1.
The home team looked to attack in the coming minutes. UAlbany’s defense held and did not allow a shot in that time period.
Back the other way, UAlbany went quickly to the offensive end. As the ball approached, the goalie moved up as the ball came out to a scrum. As a Hartford defender tried to clear out the ball, Kempf emerged and kicked towards the goal with her left foot, scoring on the open net with 2:17 left to give UAlbany the lead 2-1.
Hartford had a final gasp with a corner kick in the 89th minute. Julia Carr’s curl went out of bounds on the near post to end the threat. UAlbany took home the 2-1 comeback victory over Hartford.