ALBANY — A championship rematch with Stony Brook, in all likelihood, looms.
And, make no doubt about it, that’s the game that will largely determine the way this UAlbany women’s lacrosse season gets remembered.
But the Great Danes cannot play that game, the one their program needs to find a way to win to move forward, until this weekend — and they won’t play that game unless they take care of business Thursday against Vermont in the America East Conference semifinals at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at 6:30 p.m.
The second-seeded Great Danes made clear earlier this week that they get that. They have no intention of looking past third-seeded Vermont, a club UAlbany defeated 20-5 back in March.
“Going into this tournament, our main focus right now is Vermont,” UAlbany graduate student Madison Conway said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters. “That’s it. Take it game by game.”
“First things first, we’ve got to get through [our game against Vermont],” UAlbany freshman Katie Pascale added. “One game at a time.”
UAlbany has played in the last nine America East championship games, and has lost the last seven of those to a Stony Brook program that’s defeated the Great Danes in 16 consecutive games, a streak that includes two results from this year’s regular season. While UAlbany (No. 2 seed, 10-6 overall) plays Vermont (No. 3, 6-5) in its semifinal, No. 6 Stony Brook (No. 1, 12-2) plays UMBC (No. 4, 6-5). The winners of those games will play at 1 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium on Long Island.
Great Danes head coach Katie Rowan Thomson said she likes the attitude her club is bringing into this year’s conference tournament.
“Our team’s in a really good mindset where we know that we can’t look past any team, especially when we’re seeing them for a second game,” Rowan Thomson said. “This is a brand-new moment, a brand-new game, and Vermont’s going to come out playing really, really tough — and they’ve been playing really well these past few games.”
Vermont’s won its last two games, while the Great Danes head into the conference tournament off a 12-goal win against Binghamton — and after securing a number of league awards Wednesday. Rowan Thomson was named America East Coach of the Year, while other Great Danes to earn individual awards were sophomore Clancy Rheude, who shared co-defensive player of the year with Rayna Sabella of Stony Brook, and Pascale, who was named rookie of the year.
The selection of Pascale, who led UAlbany with 60 points on 34 goals and 26 assists, makes her the program’s third consecutive winner of the league’s rookie award after Kendra Harbinger won in 2018 and Hailey Carroll was recognized in 2019.
UAlbany’s first-team all-conference selections included Rheude, senior Kyla Zapolski and Conway, while second-team selections belonged to Pascale, Harbinger, and graduate students Jordyn Marr and Georgia Schneidereith. Pascale and Rheude also earned spots on the league’s all-rookie team, which included both freshmen and sophomores since the majority of last season was canceled because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
That the Great Danes were able to finish their regular season this year was something Conway said they didn’t take for granted. That the Great Danes “have the opportunity to play,” Conway said, is something the Great Danes are “really letting . . . motivate us” as they head into their postseason.
“We’re stoked,” Conway said. “We’re so excited.”