GREAT DANES BOUNCED FROM NCAA TOURNAMENT IN FIRST ROUND DEFEAT
Just six days after winning the America East Championship for the second consecutive season, the University at Albany Women’s soccer team went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows with a 4-2 loss to UConn, ultimately ending their season.
The Great Danes came into Saturday night’s contest riding a nine game unbeaten streak but a matchup with the 8th ranked UConn Huskies was ultimately too much for UAlbany to handle.
Alexa Casimiro, the 5-foot-3 freshman midfielder from Prospect, Connecticut took a pass from her teammate Rachel Hill and grounded a shot past UAlbany goalkeeper Chloe Borasky to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the game. For Casimiro, it was just her second goal of the season but it couldn’t have come at a better time for UConn.
Just 4:42 later, the leading goal scorer for the 2016 UConn Huskies Stephanie Ribeiro broke through for a goal of her own to extend the lead to 2-0, her 21st of the season.
After going back and forth for much of the first half, the Great Danes finally got on the board when Mariah Williams broke through for UAlbany’s first goal of the game in the 43rd minute, cutting the lead to 2-1 before the half.
Despite riding into halftime with the momentum, the second half seemed to be all about the Huskies. Rachel Hill scored off the assist by Stephanie Ribeiro and Liane Keegins for her 16th goal on the year, extending the lead to 3-1 in the 51st minute.
Maddie Damm scored her second goal of the season in the 80th minute to put the Huskies out in front 4-1, sealing the win for UConn and putting an end to the Great Danes 2016 campaign.
Mariah Williams, the sophomore freshman from Utica, N.Y., scored in the 89th minute to cut the deficit to two goals but the game was essentially out of reach.
The Great Danes allowed four goals for the first time all season in the loss.
The Great Danes season may have ended with a first round exit in the NCAA Tournament but 2016 was nothing short of a major success for UAlbany, regardless of how it ended.
“We are very proud, the fact that we scored two goals in the NCAA First Round on a top-15 opponent is pretty incredible,” said UAlbany head coach Caitlin Cucchiella. “It talks about how far we’ve come in the last couple of years and shows we can compete with top programs.”
Caitlin Cucchiella has taken the Great Danes from a team that finished 2-14-1 in her first season in 2013 to a team that is back to back America East champions in 2015 and 2016. UAlbany also made their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance with their conference title in 2015.
On top of winning their second consecutive America East Tournament championship, the Great Danes finished at 11-8-1 overall, which translates to the top winning percentage (.575) in a season in the program’s Division I history. The Great Danes also had a program record six conference victories.
For the Great Danes, it was also a special season for players individually. Megan Cavanaugh was honored as America East Co- Rookie of the Year along with six UAlbany women’s soccer players who earned all-conference honors in 2016.
Caitlyn Paltsios and Caroline Kopp were selected to first team honors while Cavanaugh, 2014 America East Rookie of the Year Vivian Vega, Kiana Rugar, and Alexa Schneider were placed on the second team.
UConn entered Saturday’s game 18-2-1 on the season, riding an eight-game win streak and a 14-game unbeaten streak riding back to Sept. 8 when it fell 3-0 to the No. 1 team at the time, the Florida State Seminoles.
Up next for UConn is a matchup with the Auburn Tigers next Friday in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Tournament.