DURHAM, N.H. – Sophomore Emma Erler (New Hampton, N.H.) recorded a career-high three points, and five other Wildcats tallied two points, to lead the No. 20 University of New Hampshire field hockey team to Saturday afternoon's 4-1 America East victory against 15th-ranked University at Albany in the regular-season finale on Senior Day at Memorial Field.
The Wildcats wrap up their regular season at 13-6, including a perfect 5-0 in America East play to win their first outright regular season title since 2000. The 'Cats, who were co-champions in 2002, earn their first No. 1 seed for the conference tournament in 10 years. They will host the tournament at Memorial Field, with the semifinals Friday, Nov. 5 and the championship game Saturday, Nov. 6. The Great Danes fall to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
UNH drew first blood at 15:53 of the opening half off a penalty corner from Erler. Junior Kendall Deck (Bridgewater, N.J.) pushed the ball to the left side of the circle for classmate Kyle Lyons (White River Junction, Vt.), who knocked the ball into the right side of the cage for the 1-0 lead.
Just 5:24 later, the Wildcats added to their advantage when a pass in front by junior Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.) was deflected by Albany goalkeeper Kristi Troch, and ended up on the stick of freshman Meg Callanan (Lititz, Pa.), who slapped the ball into the left side of the vacant net for her first career points.
Albany pulled within one with 9:47 to play in the half when Christina Patrick collected the rebound off Suzy Clephane's initial shot from the top of the circle and beat junior goalkeeper Katherine Nagengast (Westborough, Mass.) to make it 2-1.
After UNH dominated much of the first half of play, momentum swung to Albany out of the halftime break and the Great Danes controlled things for the first 20 minutes of the second stanza. The Wildcats finally changed that when Lyons' blast from the top of the circle off a penalty corner sailed just over the cage with 9:40 to play in regulation.
The 'Cats would break through just 3:15 later off a penalty corner. Rausch initiated the sequence by putting the ball in play to Deck, who slid the ball to her right for freshman Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.). Bozek ripped a shot that sped through the line of Albany defenders and into the middle of the net where it clapped off the bottom board to give the home team a 3-1 edge. Bozek now has a goal in each of the last three games.
UNH added a second insurance goal to make it 4-1 with 2:33 on the clock when Erler collected a loose ball directly in front of Troch and backhanded it into the left side of the cage to seal the victory.
Nagengast made three saves, while Troch stopped five shots.
The Wildcats, who improved to 8-1 when leading at halftime and 8-2 at home, outshot Albany, 11-5, including 8-2 in the first half.
Senior Kara Connolly (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) and student manager Ross Gorham were honored before the game in a Senior Day ceremony.
The Wildcats return to action Friday, Nov. 5 when they play host to the University of Maine in an America East semifinal tilt at Memorial Field.