Courtesy: UA Sports Info
UAlbany (12-9) was ranked or receiving votes in the NFHCA Division I National Coaches’ Poll every week this season. The Great Danes jumped back into the national rankings after winning the conference title, standing at 20th when the poll was released earlier today. UAlbany faced several nationally-ranked teams during the regular season, including NCAA participants Syracuse, Connecticut and Michigan. The Great Danes defeated the Wolverines, 3-2.
UAlbany, currently on a five-game winning streak, is led by all-conference performers Michele Polizois and Michelle Simpson. Polizois, the America East’s defensive player of the year, leads the team with 14 goals and six assists for 34 total points. Simpson, the conference’s midfielder of the year in 2008 and an All-America performer last season, added 10 goals and 12 assists for 32 points. Senior goalkeeper Ashley Ross, a four-time all-conference honoree, started all but one game in the cage for the Great Danes, recording 94 saves for a 1.98 goals against average. UAlbany is coached by Phil Sykes, who was recognized as the America East coach of the year for guiding the Great Danes to their first-ever conference championship and NCAA berth.
“This has been a very unique year for college field hockey,” said Sykes, now in his fifth season at the helm of the UAlbany program. “There has not been the usual four or five extremely dominant teams. In years past this match up would have been pretty daunting, but based on how tough our schedule was, we feel like we can compete with anyone.”
Maryland (18-2) earned the NCAA Tournament’s top seed after winning its seventh Atlantic Coast Conference championship in thrilling 4-3 triumph over Wake Forest on Nov. 9. Missy Meharg, a six-time NFHCA national coach of the year who is in her 21st season, has led the Terrapins to four national championships (1993, 1999, 2005 & 2006). Senior back Susie Rowe was recently named the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. A two-time first-team All-America selection, Rowe leads her team in scoring with 23 goals and 15 assists. Katie O’Donnell, a sophomore forward, was voted this season’s ACC Offensive Player of the Year after accounting for 18 goals and 20 assists. She earned first-team All-America recognition as a freshman. Goalkeeper Alicia Grater has allowed just 20 goals and made 68 saves in 20 starting assignments.
“It is a great feeling making history for the UAlbany field hockey program,” Simpson said. “We are going to approach it just like any other game. We know Maryland is a good team, but we also know that we have a lot of talent, and we’re playing the best field hockey that we can right now.”
Duke and Connecticut will square off in the other first-round game in College Park, Md. The winners of the two opening-round games will play a second-round contest on Sunday, also on the campus of Maryland.
2008 Division I NCAA Field Hockey Championship
First Round, College Park, Md.
Saturday, Nov. 15
Maryland (18-2) vs. UAlbany (12-9), 11:30 a.m.
Connecticut (17-3) vs. Duke (14-5), 2:00 p.m.