By ANDREW YOURELL
In last year’s America East conference finals, the UNH field hockey team succumbed to a fast-paced University at Albany team, which felled the Wildcats by a score of 5-0. It was the sixth year that UNH and Albany had met in the finals.
Robin Balducci, the team’s head coach, expected her team might have some trouble keeping emotions in check on Sunday. What she didn’t expect was the flat team that showed up for the 4-1 loss to the No. 6-ranked Great Danes.
“Extremely disappointing performance today,” she said. “Didn’t challenge enough in a lot of areas and several individuals put in sub par performances.”
The Great Danes overpowered their feline opponents, logging a 15-7 shot advantage, with eight of those shots on goal, compared to three for UNH.
Albany drew first blood, as Liza Morgan took the ball and fired it past UNH goalkeeper Melissa Rize on the game’s first shot, 1 minute 23 seconds into the game. Rize would record four saves during the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Wildcats close.
After Morgan’s goal, the Danes earned a penalty corner, and Rize managed to stop a shot off the stick of Albany’s Paula Heuser, the NCAA Division I active career leader in goals and points and last year’s NFHCA National Player of the Year award.
In the 12th minute, the Great Danes converted a corner play. Laura Page’s initial shot was blocked, but resulted in another corner play. Frederike Helmke took Megan Ma’s pass and found the back of the net past Rize.
Meg Carroll had the Wildcats’ first shot on goal of the game, with eight minutes left in the first half, but Maxi Primus, the Albany goalkeeper, turned the senior forward away for one of her two saves.
At 29:26, Camryn Dias extended the Great Danes’ lead to 3-0 when she fired a reverse stick from the left end line into the top right corner of the UNH cage. Albany maintained the lead into the half, and held a 10-2 edge in shots and a 3-0 advantage in penalty corners.
UNH generated its first scoring opportunity in the 40th minute, when Meg Flatley’s insert on a penalty corner was corralled by leading goal scorer Lindsay Nerbonne, but the junior missed the net wide right.
Heuser broke free in the 50th minute, but Rize again stonewalled the Danes’ star. While Heuser couldn’t find the back of the net herself, the ‘Cats couldn’t keep her from feeding her teammates, and Heuser’s pass to Anna Botino allowed the sophomore to score at 56:57, giving her team a 4-0 lead that the ‘Cats couldn’t come back from.
In the 65th minute, off a redirect from Courtney Sweeny, Carroll scored to put UNH on the board. But the goal was too little too late to staunch the bleeding, and the Wildcats couldn’t mount a comeback.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, they’ll get another chance for revenge before the America East playoffs roll around. UNH hosts Albany on Oct. 25. But first the ‘Cats will focus on Friday’s 4 p.m. matchup with Vermont and a Sunday afternoon tilt with the Boston College Eagles, both at home.
Wildcats underwhelm at No. 6 Albany
By ANDREW YOURELL