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The finishing touch: After slow start to season, UNH punches ticket to conference tournament

The stakes couldn’t have been higher for the UNH women’s lacrosse team on Saturday against Binghamton University, and they were relatively simple to grasp: win, and you’re in the playoffs. UNH accomplished that task, defeating the Bearcats, 11-6, at Wildcat Stadium on Senior Day to deliver the ‘Cats the No. 4 seed in the America East playoff tournament.

“It was do or die,” head coach Sarah Albrecht said. “But we gained confidence as the game went on and we were able to finish off shots.”

The Wildcats battled early with strong defense, limiting Binghamton to just eight shots in the first half. Their defense transitioned to offense, and the ‘Cats had Binghamton chasing. With an even-strength goal from freshman Rylee Leonard at 28:06 and a man-down goal off of a free position shot from junior Rebecca Sennott at 21:48, UNH controlled the pace of play with a 2-0 lead.

“We had a lot of teamwork and pace running up the field, so I’m really pleased with that,” Albrecht said.

Binghamton would respond with a trio of goals and establish its own lead at 3-2. After scoring their first, the Bearcats would score again just 43 seconds later, and Jacqueline Kennedy gave her team the lead at 10:57.

A time out from Albrecht composed the Wildcats, and they found their rhythm from the early stages of the first half of the period.

“I think we started off a little slow and a little nervous,” Albrecht said.

UNH went on the attack to close the period, and scored a pair of goals in the process. Senior Devon Croke mustered an unassisted, even-strength goal at 10:03 to even the score at 3-3. Junior midfielder Teagan Northrup regained the lead for the ‘Cats at 2:39, and UNH seemed off and running, leading 4-3 at half.

When asked what the team’s mindset was entering the half, Albrecht quipped, “That we’re not losing. [The team] wanted to come in and make sure that they’re putting it all out there and they had no regrets.”

The Wildcats played with similar pace and energy to start the second half and widened their lead. At 25:05 in the second, junior Carly Wooters scored her 24th goal and gave UNH a 5-3 advantage. Wooters would as well have her hand in the following UNH goal to put the ‘Cats up 6-3.

Following a Binghamton goal at 18:19, UNH responded with another goal from Croke at 17:09. Binghamton answered at 16:04 putting the score at 7-5, but it was all UNH from there.

Freshman midfielder Michele Smith scored her third goal of the season at 11:28 to put UNH up 8-5, and Marissa Gurello followed soon after at 9:54 to stretch UNH’s lead to four goals.

Gurello would net her second of the game and put UNH up 10-6 at 5:48 following a Bearcats goal at 7:26. Sennott netted her second goal of the game with 2:29 remaining to close the scoring at 11-6 and give UNH the win and a playoff berth. UNH will next play Boston University at Wildcat Stadium on Wednesday, April 26 at 4 p.m., with the tournament following shortly after.

“We’ve had a tough season,” Albrecht said. “This was definitely something that was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, and so it was reachable for us and something that we wanted to make sure we were pushing.”

After Wednesday’s contest against BU, the Wildcats will be the fourth seed in the America East conference tournament and will travel to face the No. 3 ranked Stony Brook Seawolves. The Seawolves defeated the Wildcats by a score of 14-2 in their lone meeting this year back on March 26.

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