By ANDREW YOURELL
For the first time since 2009, the Wildcats had to watch the America East Field Hockey Championships after dropping a 2-1 decision to the University of the Pacific in the quarterfinals.
This season marked the first year of the new America East field hockey setup, with four West Coast schools joining the conference. The Wildcats earned the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Division, pitting UNH against the West’s No. 2 Tigers.
UNH dominated every facet of the game except the scoreboard, logging a 27-7 shot advantage and a 13-5 penalty corner lead over the Tigers.
The first half was all UNH, with the Wildcats recording 21 shots. Senior captain Meg Flatley recorded the first goal of the game at 23:07. The Wildcats got the ball in transition and Flatley corralled Lindsay Nerbonne’s pass, then fired a shot to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
The Wildcats had a number of opportunities in the first half, but Pacific goalkeeper Laura Pujade made 12 saves, and the Tigers helped her out by blocking several shots and forcing others wide of the cage.
UNH’s Achilles heel was its inability to capitalize on penalty corners. The Wildcats were 0-13 on the day, whereas the Tigers netted both of their goals on corner plays.
With under a minute remaining in the first half and the momentum entirely with the Wildcats, the Tigers drew a corner. Kyleigh Morrison took a pass from Savannah Burns and buried the equalizer, tying the game at 1-1 with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
UNH took a 21-4 shot advantage and a 9-2 penalty corner advantage into the half.
UNH continued to control play in the second half, with consecutive corner plays in the 47th minute, but the Tigers defense stood tall to keep the game tied, blocking Shots by Nerbonne and Jackie Hozza.
On their heels, the Tigers called their timeout in the 55th minute, but the respite didn’t slow down the ‘Cats. Nerbonne recorded the game’s next shot, and led all players with 11 shots, eight of which were on goal.
Burns helped the Tigers on another corner, which proved to be the difference in the game. She took a shot from the top of the circle that beat UNH goalkeeper Melissa Rize with 5:59 left in regulation. The goal was the eventual game winner, but the Wildcats nearly evened it up.
With 30 seconds remaining, UNH drew another corner and sent all 10 players to the circle. But a shot by Hozza was stopped, and the Tigers cleared the ball to seal the victory.
UNH’s season drew to a close, while Pacific moved on to face East No. 1 seed Albany. Albany cruised to a 7-1 win over UC Davis in its quarterfinal match on the power of four Paula Heuser goals. The goal totals were America East tournament records for a team and an individual.
Albany rolled through Pacific by a score of 5-0, advancing to the America East Championships for the seventh consecutive season. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 East seed Maine battled through California and Stanford, winning both games 2-1.
The two teams split the America East regular season crown, both posting 7-1 conference records.
Albany managed to pull out its fifth conference championship since 2008 by a score of 2-0. Albany’s win earns the team an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.
Tigers claw past ‘Cats
By ANDREW YOURELL