Albany, N.Y. - The University at Albany women's soccer team will be making its first-ever appearance in the America East Conference Championship as the fifth seed. UAlbany (8-9-1, AE 3-4-1) travels to Stony Brook for a first-round match on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Fourth-year head coach Mary-Frances Monroe has led the youngest team in the league, which has only four upperclassmen and two that start, to its highest single-season win total in 21 years. The Great Danes won 10 matches as a Division III program in 1988. The team consistently plays with nine or 10 freshmen and sophomores.
The UAlbany-Stony Brook winner will advance to face defending-champion Boston University, the top seed with six tournament titles this decade, on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. In the other half of the bracket, third-seeded Maine will host sixth-seeded New Hampshire on Thursday at 2 p.m. The winner faces Binghamton, the second seed, on Sunday at 1 p.m. The championship match will be played at the site of the highest remaining seed on either Nov. 7 or 8 at a time to be determined.
UAlbany's improvement after finishing no higher than eighth in the conference standings before this season is a credit to the squad's most stellar defensive effort as a Division I program along with a balanced offensive attack. Anchored by freshman Casey Marks and sophomore Kendra Harrell-Vigil, UAbany has posted seven shutout victories, the most in more than 20 years, and surrenders only 1.22 goals per game. The program's Division I standard of allowing 2.00 goals per game was set in 2007. Sophomore Cate Crenson and freshman Breanna Maggio have registered four and three shutouts, respectively, and both rank among the league's top five goalkeepers in save percentage.
Chelsea DeVerna leads the team and all America East freshmen in scoring with six goals and three assists for 15 points. Senior forward Ashley Tirabassi broke the school record for career points, which stood unchallenged for 26 years, as well as the program standard for career goals. She enters the tournament with 19 career goals and eight assists for 46 points. Sophomore Rebecca Lee and freshman Maggie DeVerna control a midfield which has helped create the second-highest number of scoring opportunities in the conference for the strikers. The Great Danes attempt 16.72 shots per game.
Since the current six-team format began in 2003, the fifth seed has a 4-2 ledger and has won its opening-round match four times in the last five years. UAlbany has a three-game winning streak and a 5-1-1 ledger in its past seven road matches, which includes a 2-0 blanking of Stony Brook on Oct. 18.
The winner of the conference championship will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the other contending teams will be eligible for an at-large selection. America East recently placed two teams in the NCAA field in 2006.
2009 America East Conference Women's Soccer Championship
Thursday, Oct. 29 - First Round (at higher seeds)
No. 6 New Hampshire at No. 3 Maine, 2 p.m.
No. 5 UAlbany at No. 4 Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 1 - Semifinals (at higher seeds)
Maine/New Hampshire winner at No. 2 Binghamton, 1 p.m.
Stony Brook/UAlbany winner at No. 1 Boston University, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 7 or Sunday, Nov. 8 (at highest seed remaining)
Championship, Semifinal winners, TBD
Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information