Simpson Scores Three Goals as Women's Lax Falls at #10 Albany, 16-8

JENNY SIMPSON

ALBANY, N.Y.Jenny Simpson (New Canaan, Conn.) scored three goals and Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.) made a season-high eight saves, but the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team was defeated 16-8 by 10th-ranked University at Albany in Saturday afternoon's America East conference matchup at John Fallon Field.

UNH, which was coming off a 13-12 double-overtime win against Boston University, is now 6-6 overall, 1-2 America East. Albany is still unbeaten at 11-0, 3-0.

In addition to Simpson, who was named UNH's America East Player of the Game, three Wildcats finished with multiple points. Allie Duclos (South Windsor, Conn.) scored two goals while both Hayley Rausch (Severna Park, Md.) and JoJo Curro (Amherst, N.H.) tallied a goal and an assist. O'Keefe played 55:10 and yielded 14 goals; she was also credited with two caused turnovers and two ground balls. Kate Gunts (Wilton, Conn.) had a relief stint of 4:50 in the second half and stopped three of five shots on goal.

The Great Danes' offense was led by Jodi Battaglia (3g, 2a) and Taylor Frink (1g, 4a) with five points apiece. Rachael Burek scored four goals and Nikki Branchini had three. Anna Berman was credited with six saves.

Albany quickly took a 1-0 lead when the Great Danes controlled the opening draw and Burek finished Battaglia's feed for a goal at 29:28.

UNH leveled the score, 1-1 – the only tie of the game – at 26:49. Simpson, in the middle of the fan, executed a catch-and-shoot off Curro's pass from behind the net.

Albany then scored goals 71 seconds apart -- at 25:56 and 24:45 – to build a 3-1 advantage. Branchini netted an unassisted goal from six meters on the left wing, and then Burek shot a free position from the top of the fan into the upper-right corner.

UNH called time out at that point, but Albany continued to pressure. O'Keefe denied Amanda Pollock on a free position at 23:50, but Pollock scored from the right doorstep off Frink's pass at 23:04.

O'Keefe once again attempted to keep the home team at bay with a save against Allie Phelan on the left win at 20:30, but once again Albany maintained pressure and extended the lead to 5-1 on Branchini's goal at 19:24.

Four minutes later, O'Keefe stopped Burek on a free position, but Burek's sidearm shot from high in the fan gave the Great Danes a 6-1 cushion at 12:25. Battaglia struck at 11:52 to give Albany a six-goal lead.

O'Keefe intercepted a pass in the Wildcats' defensive zone and a quick counterattack ended Albany's run of six consecutive goals on Simpson's second strike of the day at 10:30. Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.) carried the ball into the attack zone and quickly passed the ball low the left side, where Simpson fired a high shot into the goal. It was Rees' first career point.

Rausch gained possession on the ensuing draw control and Duclos' shot from the center of the fan caromed off the post. UNH lost possession, but O'Keefe generated another caused turnover and ground ball to lead to another 'Cat tally at 7:19. On the right wing, Meghan Bridges (Sandy Hook, Conn.) found Amber Casiano (South Windsor, Conn.) and her sidearm shot found the back of the net to trim the deficit to 7-3.

The Great Danes called timeout and Battaglia, in front of the net, converted Frink's pass into a goal at 5:44 to advance the score to 8-3.

The teams then combined to score three goals in the last 66 seconds. On a free position at the top-right side of the fan, Duclos took one step and rifled a shot into the upper-right corner. Frink struck with 10 seconds on the clock – just moments after O'Keefe had denied Phelan on a free-position shot. Curro gained possession of the ensuing draw control and was fouled. On the re-start, her attempted entry pass into the attack zone did not connect with Rausch, but Simpson corralled the loose ball and sent a shot into the upper-left corner of the cage with two seconds on the clock to make the score 9-5 at halftime.

UNH carried momentum into the second half as Jamie DePetris (Radnor, Pa.) won the opening draw control and Rausch scored on a low, sidearm shot at 29:22 to lift the 'Cats within 9-6.

New Hampshire continued its comeback effort as Curro gained possession of the ensuing draw control, but Rausch's shot was blocked and UNH lost possession moments later. O'Keefe kept the Wildcats within three goals when she turned away Branchini on a free position at 25:40, but UNH lost the ball on a failed clear and Branchini scored a free-position goal at 24:33 to extend the advantage to 10-6.

Curro once again won the battle for the draw control and this time Rausch was denied by Berman in goal. The Great Danes advanced the ball downfield and Burek's third goal of the game made it 11-6 at 21:18.

O'Keefe was issued a yellow card at 20:46, which forced her to the sideline and Gunts into the game – positioned far behind the goal. Albany capitalized on the open net to extend the lead to 12-6 on Pollock's tally.

Less than one minute later, Gunts kept the 'Cats within striking distance with a stop of Battaglia. DePetris gathered the ground ball and quickly advanced the ball into the attacking zone, where Rausch, from deep on the right side, passed the ball across the goalmouth to Curro for the goal at 19:23.

Gunts then made saves against both Burek and Battaglia, but on the extended Albany possession Ariana Parker scored on a free position to give the Great Danes a 13-7 lead at 15:55.

UNH called a timeout and reinserted O'Keefe in goal, but Kathleen Lennon scored 23 seconds later and Battaglia tallied a goal at 11:39 to extend the cushion to 15-7.

On another free position from the top-right side, Duclos ripped a shot into the upper-right corner to lift the 'Cats within 15-8 at 9:37. Albany went into a spread attack to effectively kill off a majority off the remaining time and Lennon scored at the final buzzer to close the scoring.

Albany finished with the edge in shots (33-20), ground balls (13-12) and draw controls (13-11) while also committing fewer turnovers (8-14).

New Hampshire begins a three-game homestand April 16 against Stony Brook University. Game time at Memorial Field is 1 p.m.

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