Women March On
Soccer & Field Hockey win America East titles, advance to the NCAAs.
Women's soccer (top) celebrates it newest America East title at Casey Stadium on Sunday, while across the continent at Stanford University, field hockey revels over an AE title of its own. (Top photo by Bill Ziskin; bottom courtesy UAlbany Athletics)
ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2018) — 3,000 miles from home and struck with a wave of illness, the UAlbany field hockey team pulled off a minor miracle over the weekend, winning the American East (AE) Conference.
They join women’s soccer, victorious on Sunday in its AE title game, in advancing to NCAA Tournament first round games. Soccer will be traveling to Tampa to battle host South Florida this Saturday and field hockey to the University of Maryland to take on the host and 2nd seeded Terrapins on Friday. In addition, women’s cross country, which ran to an AE title on Oct. 28, will compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship in Buffalo on Friday.
Third-seeded soccer, after two 1-0 nail-biters over 6th seek New Hampshire and 2nd seed Hartford (at Hartford) on Oct. 25 and 28, cruised to victory on Sunday at Casey Stadium over 4th seed UMass Lowell, 5-1. It was a program record 14th victory for the Great Danes.
Field Hockey was the top-seed in the AE tourney, scheduled to open last Thursday. That’s where its odyssey began.
First of all, this America East tournament was being played in the western edge of the continent, in Palo Alto, Calif. This was the result of four California schools in 2015 having no other Division I field hockey conference to be a part of (they will leave the AE next year). The Great Danes first foe was scheduled to be one of those West Coast programs, UC Davis, last Thursday morning.
But a few hours prior to the game, UAlbany’s players one by one began getting sick to their stomachs. Head coach Phil Sykes sent assistant coach Andy Thornton to a CVS to get some medication. “But on the way, it hit him,” said Sykes. “So I started walking over and it hit me.” The other assistant coach, Ali Harris, got the call and made it to CVS — but got sick on the way back.
Women's cross country celebrates its program's first America East title on Oct. 28 in Nashua, N.H. (Photo courtesy of America East)
“We’re a few hours away from the game and only have eight players semi-healthy enough to play — with no goalie!” Sykes said.
The coaches went to AE conference officials to see if they could have their game postponed until the next morning. “They were very gracious and showed a lot of compassion in doing so,” said Sykes. “That extra day helped a great deal.”
The Great Danes topped UC Davis 1-0 in the Friday contest, thanks to freshman Kelsey McCrudden’s score midway through the first half. Another one-goal victory followed on Saturday against 2nd seeded University of Pacific, 4-3, with UAlbany battling back from a 3-2 second half deficit via goals by Dana Bozek and Cosima Rocktaeschel.
Sunday’s game returned some East Coach flavor in the high heat of Palo Alto, as UAlbany topped Maine 2-0 for the championship.
Sykes noted that in 20 years of coaching, he had never experienced “anything like” these days in California. “We tried to identify exactly how we got sick but couldn't be 100 percent sure.
“We think it was our lunch the day before — maybe some tainted chicken and or turkey and or mayo. Not really sure. But it was awful.
“On the flip side, we were so proud of how our players competed and battled under such adversity — not only winning the games but dealing with the heat as well. We were coming from playing in frigid East Coast conditions to 85 degrees — and even hotter on the turf.”
The wins for field hockey and soccer continue a stellar championship season for women’s sports. The weekend before, women’s cross country took its first AE title ever, topping nine teams in Nashua, N.H. Junior Hannah Reinhardt was the overall race winner in 16:54 over the 5K course, becoming UAlbany’s first-ever individual America East champion in any sport.
UAlbany volleyball, currently second in the AE regular season standings, opens its quest for an AE title when the conference tournament starts on Nov. 16.
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