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Field Hockey falls in home opener

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By Troy Farkas

Contributing Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com 

September 13, 2015

Photo from UAlbany Athletics. UAlbany's defense couldn't hold off North Carolina on Sunday.
Photo from UAlbany Athletics.
UAlbany’s defense couldn’t hold off North Carolina on Sunday.

The seventh-ranked University at Albany field hockey team, fresh off a victory against the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins in College Park on Friday, welcomed the University of North Carolina to its Alumni Turf Sunday afternoon looking to push the Great Danes’ record to 5-0 for the season. Unfortunately for the Great Danes, the Tar Heels spoiled the party, winning the game 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

The Tar Heels, ranked second in the nation, entered the game with a 4-1 record, their most recent game resulting in a loss to Syracuse, another Top 10 opponent. The Great Danes knew it would be a difficult matchup Sunday.

“Going into the season we knew this weekend was going to be very tough,” said UAlbany head coach Phil Sykes, now in his 12th season. “Playing some of these tough ACC teams, they play fast, physical, and they can get on you quick. And one of our focuses was to try to compete with their speed from the beginning.”

Just as Sykes had warned his team, UNC started quickly, scoring two goals on UAlbany’s Maxi Primus en route to the win. Emily Wold put the Tar Heels ahead for good at 3-2 with a goal late in the second half, her second of the game. The final tally came with 8:08 remaining when Wold assisted on Lauren Moyer’s goal.

“To be in that game, I’m pretty excited about that. I’m proud of the way our kids battled,” Sykes said. ”It’s much like playing an Alabama in football or a Duke in basketball. It’s so easy to be intimidated. But the girls compete and are ready to battle, and they want to win.”

UAlbany, now 4-1 overall, went 1-1 on a weekend that featured matchups with two Top 10 opponents as the Danes attempt to make it back to the Final Four after reaching it last season.

UAlbany junior Paula Heuser, the 2014 NFHCA Player of the Year, said the team’s two tough weekend matchups caught up with the Danes on Sunday against UNC.

“We put on a great effort. We put everything in. They’re just a really good team,” Heuser said. “At the end we just got out of breath, and we could feel our legs from this weekend.”

Wold gave the Heels a 1-0 lead on a rebound of a penalty corner just 3½ minutes into the game. A few minutes later, Wold assisted on senior Nina Notman’s goal to put UNC ahead 2-0.

The Danes patched up their defense for the rest of the half, stringing together several stops and preventing UNC from getting deep into UAlbany territory. The Danes were unable to find any holes in UNC’s defense until only a few minutes remained in the first half.

Sophomore midfielder Anna Bottino, a member of the U-21 USA Junior National team, took the ball down the right side and tried to flip a pass to Heuser. The ball never made it to Heuser; it deflected off the stick of a UNC defender and got past Tar Heels goalie Shannon Johnson.

Bottino’s goal put the Danes behind 2-1 heading into halftime.

With Heuser getting limited scoring opportunities in the first half, the Danes knew they had to get the ball into their star’s hands in the second half. Heuser made the score 2-2 off an assist from Laura Page, all started from senior Fiori Van Rijswijk’s penalty corner.

With the score tied, UAlbany looked as if it was ready to take control, but UNC refused to let that happen. Wold scored her second goal as Primus was lured out of the goal by a previous shot from a Tar Heel. Wold got control of the ball off a rebound and squeaked it past Primus to give the Heels their 3-2 lead before Moyer scored the game’s final goal.

“We were super excited to play an opponent as good as UNC. After the first 10 minutes we were like ‘All right, deep breath. We can run with these guys,’ ” Bottino said.

“It gave us some confidence, because we know that we can compete with these teams,” Heuser said.

UAlbany’s next game is at home against Bucknell (2-3) on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m.

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