Sunday, November 16, 2014

#12 University of Albany Field Hockey Earns First Final Four Semifinal Berth in 2-1 Win Over No. 2 Maryland - UAlbany Sports 2014

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports

COLLEGE PARK, Md.- In a season for the record books, No. 12 University at Albany kept the dream alive on Sunday afternoon. The Great Danes (20-2) downed the favored home team, No. 2 Maryland 2-1 to advance to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals. UAlbany faces UConn (18-3) in the semifinals in College Park on Friday, Nov. 21 at 4:45 p.m.

“It has been an unbelievable season, and I was curious after our win yesterday if we were going to have the energy to get through this one [against Maryland],” said head coach Phil Sykes. “I was blown away by our kids’ belief in themselves…We play a different style of hockey, and we knew if we could defend well we could counter with our speed and skill. The big key was getting our team to believe, and they did.”

Prior to the 2:00 p.m., contest on Maryland’s home field, the Terrapins were 22-1 at home in the NCAA Tournament all-time. No. 2 Maryland was the highest-ranked opponent UAlbany has ever defeated, and Phil Sykes’s 2014 squad downed the Terrapins for the first time all-time.

Both teams started the game slowly, as the contest went without a shot or a penalty corner for the first 10 minutes. But the Great Danes earned the first penalty corner of the game at the 10:37 mark.

A shot from Pahila Arnold was blocked in front of the cage on the penalty corner, but UAlbany charged back to take another penalty corner.

A Jordyn Homyak tackle on the Maryland counterattack put the Great Danes back in its offensive half. The Purple & Gold got out to an early 3-0 advantage on penalty corners.

On UAlbany’s fourth unanswered penalty corner, Paula Heuser had a shot saved, but the rebound fell to Echo Bretz. The senior forward hit the post before finding the back of the cage in the 19th minute.

Maryland did not go away quietly, as the Terps earned its first penalty corner with 10 minutes left in the first half. Maxi Primus slid across the line to make the save on a tough Maryland shot.

At halftime, UAlbany held a 5-2 advantage in penalty corners and 8-5 edge in shots against the No. 1 offense in the nation.

The Terrapins came out fired up in the second half, looking to score immediately to open the period. But the Great Danes only added to their lead on a penalty corner. On an insert from Fiori Van Rijswijk, Laura Page stopped and faked to Heuser. Arnold came in for the strike on the left side to take a 2-0 lead.

Shortly after, Maryland began threatening on the offensive end. Sykes called timeout to regroup after the Terrapins had an attempt called off the scoreboard.

On a Maryland penalty corner shortly after, the Terrapins couldn’t keep the insert down to get a shot off at the top of the circle.

The Great Danes streaked down the field to earn a penalty corner of its own. After one of the Terrapin defenders released early, Maryland was down to three backs in the cage.

A Paula Heuser shot was blocked from the top of the circle, and Maryland looked to use its speed on the break. The Terrapins had a five-on-three advantage, but Jordyn Homyak swept through to thwart the attempt.

Maryland kept knocking on the door, but another game-changing defensive save from Homyak in the NCAA Second Round kept the lead alive.

Terrapin head coach Missy Meharg called timeout to pull goalkeeper Brooke Cabrera with 8:22 remaining.

With a one-player advantage, Maryland kept possession in UAlbany’s end. The Great Danes looked to keep the pressure up, but the Terrapins squeaked one by with under seven minutes to go. UAlbany held on for its first win over Maryland all-time.

Goalkeeper Maxi Primus held the No. 1 offense in the nation (4.15 goals per game) to one goal. The sophomore tied a career high with seven saves.

“We knew this was going to be a big game,” said Primus. “We told ourselves, we just want to enjoy this. No one expects us to win, and we want to have fun. We know when we play our game, we can win.”

UAlbany field hockey is the first Great Dane squad all-time to advance to an NCAA Semifinal. The Great Danes earned their first program NCAA Tournament victory yesterday in a 2-1 win against ACC Champion Wake Forest. UAlbany is on a 14-game winning streak in its first 20-win season all-time.

Phil Sykes’s squad meets defending NCAA Champion UConn in the semifinal on Friday, Nov. 21 at 4:45 p.m. The Purple & Gold is the only unseeded team remaining in the tournament field. The other semifinal features North Carolina vs. Syracuse at 2:00 p.m.

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