The University at Albany’s women’s lacrosse team accomplished numerous program milestones this season.
But winning its first conference tournament title and gaining its initial NCAA tournament bid won’t be among them.
Despite building a 5-1 advantage with 9:37 left in the first half, the Great Danes fizzled in the final 20 minutes, allowing University of Maryland Baltimore County to rally for an 11-9 victory Thursday in the America East Conference tournament semifinals at John Fallon Field.
UAlbany (6-0, 13-3) won its first regular-season championship and earned the top seed for the tournament. The Great Danes, who dominated the all-conference team, also earned their first national ranking, 19th, in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Division I poll. Albany is currently 17th in the deBeer Inside Lacrose media poll.
Additionally, junior midfielder Nikki Branchini (Guilderland) was named the conference’s player of the year, and head coach Lindsey Hart was selected the coach of the year. Senior midfielder Kayla Best (Guilderland), senior attack Christine Grueniger, junior midfielder Mel Rorie and senior goalie Ashley Ross were also named to the all-conference first team.
The Great Danes opened the game in the same dominating fashion they played most of the season by scoring the first goal 1:23 into the contest when Grueniger connected on her 39th goal of the season off an assist from Taylor Frink. Albany tacked on three more goals, including another by Grueniger, for a 4-0 cushion before the fourth-seeded Retrievers (3-3, 11-6) got on the board with a goal by junior midfielder Ashley Stodter.
Best flipped in a goal with 9:37 left in the half to extend the Danes’ advantage to 5-1.
But with Rorie in the penalty box for a three-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, UMBC began to get back in the game on a goal by Emily Coady with 19.3 seconds left in the half.
The Great Danes had a goal by Rorie nullified early in the second half because she was in the crease. That’s when the Retrievers began their comeback with three consecutive goals to knot the score at 5-5. The backbreaker was a coast-to-coast score by Alicia Krause after forcing a turnover in the Albany offensive end.
The lead see-sawed in the next few minutes, with Melanie Sosnowski scoring for Albany and Amanda Pappas converting for UMBC on a player-up situation.
UMBC then scored three straight goals for a 9-6 edge with 7:10 remaining.
Although Olivia Jarem and Grueniger scored to cut the Albany deficit to 9-8 with 3:58 left, UMBC countered with goals by Lindsey Cox and Coady to lock up the win.
“We didn’t play well as a team,” said Best. “We didn’t play hard the whole game. We never looked past anyone, but we didn’t play as well as we expected.”
“We didn’t win enough draws, and we had to play defense almost the entire second half,” said Ross. “Once they got a goal, their run kept going. I thought all four teams [in the semifinals] were very close”
“It was an interesting game,” said Hart. “We never got into our groove. We weren’t clicking. But I told our kids that it’s been a great ride and a great year. I thanked the seniors for the legacy they left. [The Danes] will be better prepared the next time.”
UMBC coach Kelly Berger wasn’t surprised by her team’s comeback.
“All year, we did the same thing with slow starts,” she said. “It became a habit. We were confident we could come back.”
UMBC 2 9 — 11
Albany 5 4 — 9
UMBC scoring: Lindsay Cox 1-1, Alicia Krause 1-0, Ashley Stodter 2-0, Emily Coady 4-0, Bria Phillips 1-0, Amanda Pappas 2-0. Albany scoring: Christine Grueniger 3-0, Taylor Frink 0-3, Olivia Jarem 3-0, Rachel Burek 1-0, Kayla Best 1-0, Melanie Sosnowski 1-0.
Goalies: UMBC, Kate Quick, 8 saves; Albany, Ashley Ross, 13 saves.
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Categories: College Sports