No. 5 Field Hockey fights off Bucknell
By Aaron Cheris
September 21, 2015
The University at Albany field hockey team is currently ranked fifth in the country. With the target on their backs increasing by the day, the Great Danes held off a tough Bucknell team 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Turf.
“They’re a good team; Bucknell. They tried to disrupt their rhythm, which they did very well,” UAlbany head coach Phil Sykes said. “It was hard to get going. We were getting a little over eager.”
UAlbany quickly started off on the right foot. Less than five minutes into the game, UAlbany earned a penalty corner. Off a Fiori Van Rijswijk pass, Paula Heuser blasted a shot past Bucknell goalkeeper Shannon Keen to give UAlbany an early 1-0 lead. Heuser now has a team leading eight goals on the year.
“It’s something we practice a lot, I was just happy I could execute it,” Heuser said of her goal off the penalty corner.
“She’s an impressive player. I think what sets her aside in a big way is her work ethic,” Sykes said. “She’s athletically gifted, sure. But she works very hard to attain new things all the time. I think when people come against her, they can defend one thing and she’ll do the other.”
Toward the end of the first half, UAlbany extended its lead when Anna Bottino made a steal and passed to Liza Morgan at the top of the circle. Morgan’s shot got past Keen in the right corner of the net to double UAlbany’s lead heading into halftime. The goal was Morgan’s first of the season.
In the second half, UAlbany had many chances, but couldn’t capitalize early. Late in the game, Bucknell was able to pull closer.
Off a penalty corner, Stephanie Dressler set up Amy Mucelli, who put the ball past UAlbany goalkeeper Maxi Primus to cut the deficit in half.
As time was winding down, UAlbany added the insurance goal they needed to put the game away. Van Rijswijk made a strong run toward the end line and her pass found Bottino wide open for her fourth goal of the year.
For the first time, the UAlbany Pep Band played at a field hockey game, and the team was happy to receive the support.
“That was really good. We didn’t really know when they were going to play or what they were going to play,” Skyes said of the band. “It was awesome to have that energy. I thought they were fantastic.”
On the day of her 21st birthday, Primus was strong in net, allowing one goal or fewer for the fifth time this season in the victory.
“She was good. I don’t think she saw a lot of action back there, but she’s done very well for us this year,” Sykes said of Primus. “Everyday in practice it’s a challenge for our players to score. She’s kept us in some big games.”
The win improves UAlbany to 5-1 on the season, while Bucknell falls to 2-5 with the loss.
After a trip to the Final Four last season, the Great Danes know they will need to work just as hard, if not harder, this season to get a similar result.
“Everyone’s pumped to play us because they know we went so far last year. That’s a huge target on our backs,” Heuser said. “It’s exciting too because every game counts.”
“Everybody’s coming after us,” Sykes said. “The breakthrough last year made a big difference.”
UAlbany’s next game is on the road at Lafayette on Friday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.