ALBANY, N.Y. – Freshman Ariana Parker scored three goals, including what proved to be the game-winner, in leading unbeaten UAlbany to a 12-11 victory against UMBC on Saturday afternoon at John Fallon Field. The Great Danes wrapped up their second consecutive conference regular-season crown and will host next week’s America East championship tournament.
UAlbany (15-0, AE 6-0) built an 11-8 margin midway through the second half when Taylor Frink passed over the top of the goal to a cutting Allie Phelan. UMBC (10-6, AE 4-2) responded with a pair of goals. Lindsay Cox connected on a free-position attempt from the left side, before Amanda Pappas stuck a bounce shot from in front of the cage in another free-position situation.
After defensive midfielder Nikki Branchini came away with the following draw, the Great Danes took a 12-10 lead when Parker dodged defender C.J. Durham from the left and sent a sidearm delivery into the net with 9:05 remaining. Erika Braerman, a senior who had three goals and one assist, again sliced the deficit in half by spinning to her right shoulder and sending a shot inside the far post. The Great Danes were able to play keep away from UMBC’s double-team defense over the final two minutes.
“It certainly could have gone either way, but I am proud of how the team pulled together,” said Frink, a senior attacker with had one goal and five assists. “UMBC is always a head-to-head battle; they always fight to the last whistle. There was pressure with the outcome deciding who would host the tournament, but this should boost our confidence.”
In the opening half, the Great Danes snapped a 4-4 deadlock with four unanswered. Phelan, a freshman midfielder, dodged a defender from the right point and moved across the crease to break the tie. Parker collected the following draw to set up her own goal, when she finished off a move from the left. Jodi Battaglia added back-to-back goals, including the second on a transition play that started when freshman Michelle Primomo caused a turnover in the defensive end.
The Retrievers, who have posted 10 or more wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in eight years, regrouped when Cox closed the gap to 9-6 just before halftime. The sophomore midfielder spun through two defenders and found the right side of net. Pappas, who scored three times, drew her team within a pair of goals with two minutes and 37 seconds elapsed in the final period.
“We had a lot of errors which led to second and third opportunities for them,” said UAlbany coach John Battaglino, whose team is the first America East Conference program to finish a regular season undefeated since the league began in 1996. “UMBC has savvy players. But we were able to control the ball over the final minutes.”
Cox finished with three goals for the Retrievers, who ended up in a tie with Boston University for second place in the conference standings. UAlbany’s Rachael Burek had three goals and one assists, while Battaglia added three goals. Goalkeeper Anna Berman made eight saves.
“This is the best feeling and it is good to enjoy the moment,” offered Branchini, whose team in ranked No. 8 in the IWLCA poll and No. 7 by deBeer/Inside Lacrosse. “We know what it is like to host the tournament and the fact that teams will not roll over for us just because we won the regular season.”