ALBANY, N.Y. – Sarah Craigue (Concord, N.H.), the America East Offensive Player of the Year, scored her 11th goal of the season, but the University of New Hampshire field hockey team was defeated 2-1 by the University at Albany in the America East Championship title game Sunday afternoon at alumni field.
UNH, which finished as league runner-up for the fourth time (1992, 1994, 2000, 2008), ends its season at 9-11. Albany, which defeated the Wildcats 3-1 in last week’s regular-season finale to claim the regular-season crown, is now 12-9 and advances to the NCAA tournament.
“We played awesome,” 18th-year head coach Robin Balducci said. “We fell behind early but battled back to tie it up. We gave ourselves chances to win the game. This game is us taking a step forward as a team.”
Albany opened the scoring at 4:56 when Nicole Savage’s shot from the left side of the circle went inside the far post.
New Hampshire began to gain momentum in the 11th minute, when a shot by Whitney Frates (Woodstock, Vt.) went wide of the cage and then a Meg Shea (Melrose, Mass.) shot was turned aside by UA goalkeeper Ashley Ross. That pressure led to a UNH penalty corner, however, and a shot wide by Craigue.
UNH pulled even, 1-1, at 28:58 when Frates carried along the right endline, drew the defense and centered a pass low to Craigue, who fired the ball into the cage.
The Great Danes were awarded a penalty corner as time expired in the first half, and UNH goalie Jenna Lehman (Kingston, Pa.) kept the game deadlocked with a save against Jess Lindsey. UA was awarded a second corner, but Michelle Polizois’ shot was off target to end the half.
Albany began to assert control in the 53rd minute with a corner that produced a Polizois shot stopped by Lehman. On a subsequent corner, Polizois blasted a shot wide. In the next two minutes, Alysia Hough shot wide of the cage and Lehman turned aside a shot from the stick of Chirstina Patrick.
The Great Danes took a 2-1 lead on another series of corners in the 61st minute. On the first corner, Savage’s shot was blocked by the UNH defense. Michelle Simpson, off a pass from Lindsey, scored at 60:49 off the next corner.
UNH called time out at that point, but the ‘Cats did not record a shot the remaining 9:11 of regulation.
Lehman finished with four saves, including three in the second half. Ross was credited with one save defending the UA goal.
Craigue, Shea and Frates were named to the All-Championship Team.
This marked the final game in a UNH field hockey jersey for seniors Hannah Colestock (Oak Park, Ill.), Brittany Jacobs (Frederick, Md.), Kara Napolitano (Waltham, Mass.) and Craigue.