UAlbany women’s lacrosse optimistic heading into rematch with Stony Brook

UAlbany’s Kendra Harbinger with the ball against Syracuse’s Emma Tyrrell during an April 13 game in Albany.

UAlbany’s Kendra Harbinger with the ball against Syracuse’s Emma Tyrrell during an April 13 game in Albany.

Kendra Harbinger’s already pictured in her mind how it might play out, the cheering and celebrations Saturday at John Fallon Field if she and her UAlbany women’s lacrosse teammates can end the program’s 15-game losing streak against America East power Stony Brook.

“We’ve really been putting in the work, and I think this year, more than ever, we have a huge shot,” Harbinger, a senior midfielder/attack, said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters. “It would be the best feeling ever, as a senior, to top them.”

Saturday’s 4 p.m. game with Stony Brook is the Great Danes’ second chance to take down their long time nemesis this season.

Stony Brook (5-0 America East, 9-2 overall), ranked sixth nationally, scored an 18-11 victory over UAlbany (6-1, 9-5) when the teams met March 20 on Long Island. That extended a winning streak for the Seawolves against the Great Danes that includes seven meetings in the America East championship game.

However, since that game, there’s been a feeling of evolution in a UAlbany team that believes it is peaking as the end of the regular season draws near.

“Since the last time we played [Stony Brook], we’ve really taken a step up,” said senior midfielder Kyla Zapolski, who leads the Great Danes with 43 goals this season. “I think we’re, honestly, a completely different team — a stronger team, a more connected team.”

UAlbany’s March 20 loss to Stony Brook was followed up by another setback against a ranked opponent in Drexel, but the team has hit a higher gear since then.

The Great Danes head into Saturday’s game having won four of their last five. The four wins came by a combined margin 77-28, with the lone loss coming April 13 against No. 3 Syracuse.

The second half of that Syracuse loss, however, provided a performance that the Great Danes believe can provide a template for success against an opponent of Stony Brook’s quality. In that 16-6 setback, UAlbany was down 12-0 at halftime, but outscored the Orange 6-4 in the second half.

“I think we learned a lot, offensively, about playing against these high-pressure defenses,” UAlbany coach Katie Rowan Thomson said.

“It showed us a new pace of play,” Zapolski said. “I think that’ll be really helpful going into the Stony Brook game.

The second half of the Syracuse game also highlighted UAlbany’s progress in draw controls, success in which will be vital as the Great Danes seek to dictate possession and pace of play against Stony Brook.

“Our draw unit has really connected,” Rowan Thomson said. “We have different options within that, but those possessions are really critical, and that’s been a really steady improvement throughout the season.”

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