Albany tops Maine in AE tournament finale, Black Bears hopeful for tournament bid

With a crucial game winning score in overtime, fourth-year forward Nicole Sevey lifted the University of Maine field hockey team to a 2-1 win against the University of California on Friday. The matchup marked the first round of the America East playoffs and with the win, the Black Bears broke their school’s record for most wins in a season with 18.

California stumbled into the match riding a five game losing streak, and they struggled to turn things around early in the game. On the other hand, Maine entered the game as the No. 19 nationally ranked team, having been demoted one spot from their previous ranking of No. 18.

Though they lost, California had some positive takeaways from the game. Second-year goalkeeper Kori Griswold put up a statement performance in the goal, collecting 11 saves against a high-pressure team like Maine.

At the start of the game, Maine had no shortage of chances to put points on the board rapidly. Firing off 14 shots throughout the half, along with 10 penalty corners, the Black Bears tried to get an early advantage. Despite their constant pressure and extended possession of the ball, the Black Bears could not get past Griswold, as she made eight early saves while stopping anything that came her direction. The first half ended with the score knotted at zero.

The second half felt like a different game when California put a point on the board 30 seconds in. Rebounding from their weak performance early on, second-year forward Alie Zimmer sent the ball from the far post to first-year forward Janaye Sakkas who nudged the ball into an empty net, while second-year goalkeeper Emily Corbett was out of position. The goal gave California the first 1-0 advantage of the game.

 Facing the possibility of being shutout for the first time since September, the Black Bears kept calm and found the net with less than three minutes left in the game. On a penalty corner shot, third-year midfielder Sydney Veljacic fired a pass that finally got behind Griswold, tying the game up and forcing overtime.

 With the game on the line, the Black Bears knew what to do, as they wasted no time winning the game. An errant pass near California’s goal led to a recovered ball by Sevey, who without any help, shot the ball straight down the middle of the goal to give Maine the game winning score and to preserve the 2-1 win.

 At the end of the game it was clear why the Black Bears won. They managed to take 13 shots on the goal, generating enough pressure to get past Griswold twice. One the other side, California only had one shot on the goal during the entire game.

The much-needed win helped advance Maine to the semi-finals in the America East playoffs.

Maine Field Hockey Advances to Championship Game

Lightning struck twice on Saturday afternoon, as the Maine field hockey team won their second overtime game 2-1 against Stanford during the America East playoffs. With the game tied in the early minutes of a heart pounding overtime period, third-year forward Danielle Aviani shined with a game-winning goal to launch the Black Bears full speed into the America East Championship.

The 13th nationally ranked Stanford team did everything they could to get the victory. They outshot the No. 19 ranked Maine 21-4 in the showdown, and generated constant pressure. Though they played very well at times, they let one simple mistake in overtime end their season.

The game started with Stanford clicking on all cylinders. Deep into the first half, second-year forward Katie Keyser put the first point on the board when she beat second-year goalkeeper Emily Corbett. The goal gave Stanford the 1-0 advantage, and gave them momentum as they continued their high-octane assault. Despite giving up the goal, Corbett managed to grab six critical saves to help keep the Black Bears from being buried early.

For the second time during the playoff weekend, Maine failed to put any points on the board in the first half, as they only took one shot which failed to meet the net. The Black Bears entered halftime looking for a spark, down by one, but by no means out of the game.

A different half brought the same results at first as Stanford again dominated, shooting seven shots versus Maine’s two. Though they generated tons of pressure, second-year goalkeeper Emma Cochran stopped four shots, keeping Maine afloat.

Midway through the second half, the Black Bears got the spark they desperately needed in the form of a score. On a penalty corner attempt, first-year midfielder Libby Riedl and fourth-year back Nicole Sevey set the ball for fourth-year forward Katie Bingle, who shot a bullet past fourth-year goalkeeper Dulcie Davies, tying the game up at 1-1 and forcing overtime.

In overtime, Stanford once again found ways to test Maine’s goal. They got off four quick shots, with one being a potential game winner from fourth-year Lauren Becker on an open net, which was saved by Bingle on a key defensive save.

Though Maine didn’t generate many scoring opportunities, they found ways to make the most of their few chances. With an open net and the ball in their possession, the Black Bears knew what to do. Aviani used her signature speed and agility to breakaway from Stanford’s defenders, and with a pass into an empty net she propelled the Black Bears to victory.

The win sends the Black Bears into the America East Championship for the first time since 2006 where they get to face the University at Albany for a third time this season.

Albany Wins America East Championship, Shuts out Maine 2-0

In the biggest game of the season, the University at Albany field hockey team stepped up and shutout Maine 2-0 on Sunday in the America East Championship, booking their trip to the NCAA tournament. The home win gives Albany their second straight America East title. With the victory Albany now vaults up to a 19-2 overall record, while the Black Bears walk away with a 19-4 record, with two of their losses coming from Albany.

Riding two straight overtime victories, the No. 19 nationally ranked Maine looked strong heading into the matchup. On the other side, the No. 8 nationally ranked Albany marched into the game coming off a shutout victory against University of the Pacific.

The Great Danes received a stroke of luck midway through the first half, putting them onto the board first. This came in the form of a penalty stroke where second-year goalkeeper Emma Cochran faced the toughest challenge for any goalie, stopping star third-year midfielder Paula Heuser. On the play, Heuser snuck the ball into the corner of the box, earning her 33rd goal of the season, and giving Albany the 1-0 lead.

Minutes later, Heuser again gave the Black Bears nightmares by weaving through defenders and getting a shot off at Maine’s goal. Rushing at the ball, Cochran made a key diving save as she played aggressively forcing Heuser to make a quick shot that failed to hit the net.

With three and a half minutes left in the half, Cochran’s aggressive play style hurt the Black Bears. Though she snagged three saves, at times she left the goal wide open, and second-year forward Kelsey Briddell found a way to exploit that weakness. She hit a quick shot into the box when Cochran dived too early, raising Albany’s lead to 2-0 heading into halftime.

The Black Bears went into the second half without any points for the third time during the weekend. Their passive play style got them wins against Stanford and California, but they needed to play more forceful against Albany. Trailing by two, the Black Bears made a change in goal. Second-year goalkeeper Emily Corbett took over and helped Maine’s defense hold Albany out of the box for the remainder of the game.

There was a sense of urgency for the Black Bears at the start of the second half. They needed to get the ball to either of their top scorers, third-year midfielder Sydney Veljacic or third-year forward Danielle Aviani, but Albany maintained possession of the ball. The exhaustion and fatigue of three consecutive road playoff games looked apparent for the Black Bears, as they seemed to be giving the ball away too easily.

With less than seven minutes left to play, Maine forced a must-score penalty corner. During the attempt, first-year back Samantha Wagg took a powerful shot at third-year goalkeeper Maxi Primus, who made a game-ending save, crushing the Black Bear’s hope of a late comeback and sealing the 2-0 win.

Moving forward, the Black Bears are ranked 17th in the RPI poll, though their wins against California and Stanford may move them forward and put them into consideration to receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament. If the Black Bears make it into the tournament, there’s no limit to how far they could go.

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