Wednesday, May 4, 2011

University of Albany Womens Lacrosse's Nikki Branchini Voted America East's Top Player; John Battaglino Chosen Coach of the Year - UAlbany Sports 2011

Cambridge, Mass. -- University at Albany's Nikki Branchini has been voted America East Conference Co-Player of the Year in women's lacrosse, as announced on Wednesday, May 4 by the conference office. Branchini was one of five Great Danes named to the all-league first team. John Battaglino was chosen America East Coach of the Year.

Branchini, who was the America East's top player last year, becomes the third athlete to win multiple conference player of the year awards, joining Boston University's Chrissy Lombard (1999-2001) and Sarah Dalton (2008-09). A defensive midfielder from Guilderland, N.Y., she is also the first UAlbany player to earn first-team All-America East recognition four times.

Branchini, a third-team IWLCA All-American as a junior, ranks third among the NCAA Division I leaders in draw controls at 4.93 per game, plus averages 1.2 caused turnovers and 2.0 ground balls. She also had her best offensive season as a collegian with 20 goals and three assists. During the regular-season, she was named conference defensive player of the week on three occasions and chosen league player of the week once. She is the NCAA's active career leader in draw controls with 258.

Battaglino, who is in his first season after being promoted from the program's associate head coach position, led the Great Danes to the America East Conference regular-season crown and a 15-0 record. The Great Danes, who are ranked No. 8 nationally in the IWLCA poll and No. 5 by deBeer/Inside Lacrosse, became the first America East program to go undefeated overall through regular-season play in conference history. UAlbany is the only unbeaten team at the NCAA Division I level.

Taylor Frink and Jodi Battaglia, a pair of senior attackers, join Branchini on the all-conference first team. Frink, one of 24 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation's top player, is fifth nationally in scoring at 4.67 points per game and second in assists (2.67 pg). She has established UAlbany single-season records for assists (40) and points (70). Frink is sixth on the school's career scoring chart with 158 points. Battaglia makes her second appearance on the first team after earning the honor as a sophomore. She is third among the league leaders in goals (2.73 pg) and fourth in points (3.60 ppg). Battaglia is sixth on UAlbany's single-season scoring list (54) and ninth among the career scorers with 137 points.

In addition, UAlbany placed two freshmen on the first team. Ariana Parker totaled 36 goals and one assist from her midfield position. She is fifth in the conference in goals (2.4 pg) and has the third-best season goal total by a UAlbany freshman. Michelle Primomo, a defender, has 14 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. She keys a defensive unit that is among the nation's leaders in goals allowed at 6.87 per game.

Parker and Primomo are also members of the America East All-Rookie Team along with Allie Phelan and Anna Berman. Phelan, a midfielder, totaled 13 goals, one assist, 29 draw controls and 18 ground balls. Berman, a goalkeeper, is second nationally in goals against average (7.03) and has a .496 save percentage.

Branchini led a group of four UAlbany players who were picked to the America East All-Academic Team. Branchini, who is on the all-academic unit for the third year in a row, has a 3.83 cumulative grade point average in history. She recently received an ECAC Merit Medal as the school's top senior female student-athlete. Battaglia is also on the academic squad with a 3.55 GPA in business administration. Amanda Pollock, a junior midfielder, owns a 3.53 in accounting, and Rachael Burek has a 3.62 in business administration.

UAlbany begins postseason play on Thursday, May 5 when the Great Danes host New Hampshire in the conference tournament semifinals at 1:00 p.m. Boston U. and UMBC meet in the second semifinal at 3:30 p.m. The winners will play for the championship at UAlbany's John Fallon Field on Saturday, May 7 at 1:00 p.m. For tickets, call 518-442-4683.

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

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