|MEGAN BOZEK celebrates after MEG FLATLEY scored in overtime.|
DURHAM, N.H. – Redshirt freshman Meg Flatley (Townsend, Mass.) netted a goal and an assist, including the game-winning tally nine minutes into overtime, to lift the 20th-ranked University of New Hampshire field hockey team past Fairfield University, 3-2, in a semifinal matchup of the 2012 America East Championship Friday at Memorial Field.
UNH, the conference regular season champion and tournament host as the top seed by virtue of a 5-0 record, improves to 12-7 on the season and 6-3 in overtime games this season. Fairfield, which lost 3-2 at home in double overtime to the Wildcats in the regular season, wrapped up its season at 10-10 overall. This was the first America East postseason game for the fourth-seeded Stags.
New Hampshire advances to the America East title game on Sunday, Nov. 4 at Memorial Field and will face the University at Albany, as the second-seeded Great Danes defeated the University of Maine, 4-1, in the other semifinal. The championship game is slated to start at noon.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carlie Tarbell (Wakefield, Mass.) recorded two saves for the Wildcats, while Maddy Sposito made five stops for the Stags and Michelle Loor was credited with a pair of defensive saves.
UNH's other goals were scored by Mary Quill (Greenland, N.H.) and Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), who was named to the All-Conference First Team and Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week.
Felicitas Heinen and Christy Starsinic accounted for the Fairfield tallies.
The Wildcats controlled possession in the opening five minutes, but the Stags nearly converted a turnover into a goal in the seventh minute when Starsinic fired a shot from the middle of the circle towards the right side, but Tarbell slid across the goal line to make a kick save with her left leg pad.
UNH opened the scoring in the 16th minute as senior Mary Quill (Greenland, N.H.) netted her first goal of the season. Flatley, an All-Rookie Team selection, generated the play by driving into Fairfield territory and sent a powerful shot from the top of the circle toward the cage, where Quill redirected the ball into the top left of the goal for the 1-0 advantage at 15:42.
Five minutes later, the 'Cats nearly struck again on a penalty corner. Emma Erler (New Hampton, N.H.), another First Team selection, inserted the ball into play and received the ball back at the left doorstep. Sposito came off the line, Erler maneuvered around the goalie and fired a shot toward the cage that Loor blocked aside.
UNH generated consecutive corners in the 28th minute. Bozek fired a shot wide on the initial corner, then Casey Pohlmeyer (Millersville, Md.), another First Team honoree, lifted a shot to the left side that Sposito knocked aside with her blocker. One minute later, Quill's bid for a second goal was denied by Loor.
New Hampshire scored again in the 31st minute when junior Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) received a pass from junior Meg Carroll (Mansfield, Mass.) in the middle of the circle and angled a reverse-stick shot past the reach of Sposito for the 2-0 lead at 30:08.
New Hampshire dominated play in the opening stanza to generate a 9-2 shot advantage and 6-2 penalty corner margin before intermission.
Fairfield turned it around after the break and took advantage of a UNH penalty in the circle in the 42nd minute. Heinen took the penalty stroke and sent a low shot to the left side of the cage and past Tarbell to trim the deficit to 2-1 at 41:38.
Six minutes later, Quill slipped behind the visitor's defense for a breakaway opportunity on the left wing. Sposito charged and made a sliding save with leg pads stacked.
The Stags evened up the score at 53:57 when Heinen sent a long entry shot to Starsinic, who dove for the pass in front of the cage and tipped the ball over Tarbell into the top left of the net.
New Hampshire, which called time out at 63:24, had a fair share of chances to close out regulation, including a penalty corner with less than a minute left to play, but the two teams went into overtime all knotted up at two goals apiece. The 'Cats had the sizable edge in both shots (17-5) and corners (11-2).
After nearly nine minutes of even play in overtime, Flatley secured the victory for UNH with a game-winning goal at 79:07. Sophomore Kellie Joyce (South Pomfret, Vt.) drove through traffic on the right side of the circle and sent a shot at the cage. Sposito lost position and fell to the ground, which allowed Flatley to follow through with the game-winner into the open cage.
New Hampshire won the battle for shots (20-5) and penalty corners (11-2), while Joyce, Bozek and Quill registered four shots apiece.
Sunday's game will mark the program's eighth America East championship game appearance and third in as many years after the Wildcats knocked off Boston University to capture the 2011 conference title and finished runner-up to Albany in 2010.