TROY – The UAlbany women’s basketball team played its season opener Friday night with a pace that was the same on offense and defense. The only difference was if it had the ball.
It had the ball comfortably enough for a 67-53 win over Merrimack at the McDonough Sports Complex at Hudson Valley Community College.
Due to injuries, the Great Danes only dressed 10 players, but they all played and contributed. UAlbany was without Morgan Haney, Kayla Cooper and Helene Haegerstrand. Haegerstrand was wearing a walking boot on her left foot. Cooper was dressed in sweats and didn’t show any noticeable injury. Haney was injured in UAlbany’s exhibition Monday, but was not with the team Friday.
But the Great Danes still had Ellen Hahne, and that makes up for a lot of absences.
“Sometimes I think, like, we have Ellen and you don’t,” UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen said. “She does everything on both ends of the floor.”
Hahne led the Great Danes with 24 points, four rebounds and four assists, showing the versatility that UAlbany fans have come to love and Merrimack (0-2) quickly grew to hate.
Freja Werth added a career-high 17 points and five rebounds, while Lilly Phillips finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
“Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty on our team,” Mullen said. “People are day by day. Morgan was not able to be here, and it was kind of my decision to have her stay back. I think it’s going to be game by game here.
“We’re in a great opportunity here,” Mullen added. “Every player wants an opportunity, and these kids that have been role players in the past … it’s wonderful to see them step up and take an opportunity, and here it is for them. We will be better and stronger for this. Right now everybody’s game by game, TBD.”
UAlbany’s pace was quick, but not hurried on offense, and just the same on defense, whether it was pressing the Warriors or not. By halftime, it had only forced six Merrimack turnovers, but Merrimack’s discomfort level was high, having shot 9 of 31 from the field because of UAlbany’s defense. That led the Great Danes to a 34-23 lead at the break.
“Going forward, we have to keep doing that, not playing to our opponent,” Phillips said. “We have to control the tempo.”
“A big emphasis for this game was to sprint back on defense,” Hahne added. “I think we’re going to see that a lot with other teams just pushing really hard after we make a basket. Just making sure if we’re not pressing, that we get back quickly.”
UAlbany’s effort throughout the game was shown by its final points in the third quarter. Hahne managed to pass the ball backward to Grace Heeps before hitting the floor and risking a travel call. Heeps, also on the floor, couldn’t get the ball cleanly, but staved off a Merrimack player for it and spotted an open Phillips, who drained a 3-pointer as time expired.
“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Mullen said. “I was frustrated because I didn’t think we were getting those 50-50 plays. To come up with that, have Lilly hit that shot right at the end, it was that energy we needed going into the fourth quarter because we knew we were going to have to grind it out.”