BALTIMORE - Kayleigh Hinkle (Glenelg, Md.) scored with 34 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team to Saturday afternoon's 6-5 victory against UMBC at UMBC Stadium.
UNH improved to 6-10 overall and 3-3 in America East to secure a berth in the America East Championship tournament. The Wildcats earned the No. 3 seed and will play second-seeded University at Albany in a May 3 semifinal game at Stony Brook University's LaValle Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.
New Hampshire, under the direction of first-year head coach Sarah Albrecht, returns to the postseason after a one-year absence in 2012; the 'Cats had made a league-record 14 consecutive appearances spanning 1998-2011.
UMBC's season ends at 8-8, 2-4.
Hinkle led the attack with four points on two goals and two assists. Amber Casiano (South Windsor, Conn.) scored two goals while Laura Puccia (Fairport, N.Y.) tallied two points with a goal and an assist. Kathleen O'Keefe (Chatham, N.J.) was credited with six saves and two ground balls.
Shannon Harkey (one goal, one assist) was the only UMBC player to record multiple points. Kendall Mason made seven of her eight saves in the first half.
UNH trailed 3-1 at halftime and fell behind 5-3 at 15:32 of the second half when Michelle Platz converted Harkey's pass into a goal, but the visitors closed the game on a 3-0 run to record the come-from-behind victory.
UNH turned the ball over, however, but at the other end of the field O'Keefe kept the Wildcats within one goal when she denied Kristen Bilney on a free-position shot at 11:37. DePetris corralled the ground ball and UNH, after a successful clear to the attack zone, called time out at 10:57.
Following two empty possessions by both teams, Casiano fired a shot wide of the cage at 7:59. The Wildcats remained on the attack and Casiano scored a man-up free-position goal at 7:54 to level the score at 5-5. It marked just the second tie of the game, the first of which occurred at 13:28 of the first half (1-1).
Momentum continued on the side of the Wildcats as Hinkle gathered control of the ensuing draw. UMBC regained possession at 4:48 and immediately called a timeout. The Retrievers successfully advanced the ball into the attack zone and went into a spread formation, but UNH's Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.) forced a turnover to give the ball back to New Hampshire with 1:59 on the clock.
Hinkle scored her second goal of the game and 11th of the season with 34 seconds to play to give UNH its first lead of the game, 6-5. Puccia extended the Wildcats' streak of consecutive draws to four. The Retrievers committed two fouls during failed attempts to force a turnover as the 'Cats maintained possession the rest of the way to secure the victory and America East tourney berth.
In addition to the edge in draw controls, UNH recorded the advantage in shots (17-16). UMBC was credited with more ground balls, 16-13, and the turnovers were even at 11.
UMBC took a 1-0 lead on Sam Nolan's unassisted goal at 27:15 of the first half. Neither team scored the next 13 minutes as O'Keefe turned aside three Retrievers' shots and Mason stopped five UNH scoring bids.
New Hampshire finally leveled the score, 1-1, when Puccia set up Hinkle's goal at 13:28. UMBC won the draw control and that possession led to Abby Wilson scoring a free-position goal that put the home team back in front, 2-1, at 11:58.
Jordan Lyons also scored on a free position to extend the Retrievers' advantage to 3-1 at 8:33, and that proved to be the last goal of the first half. Harkey nearly struck in the closing seconds, but her shot ricocheted off the post and Wohltmann snared the ground ball to end UMBC's scoring threat.
UMBC won the opening draw of the second half, which led to Harkey's unassisted goal at 28:15 that gave the home team its largest lead of the game, 4-1.
O'Keefe stoned Kris Coppolino on a free position at 23:57, then UNH closed within 4-2 when Hinkle set up Casiano for a man-up goal at 22:28. Rachael Nock (Severna Park, Md.) won the draw control and the Wildcats trimmed the deficit to 4-3 when Jenny Simpson (New Canaan, Conn.) scored her team-leading 42nd goal of the season at 20:16.
Platz' free-position shot at 19:59 was stopped by O'Keefe to keep the margin at one goal. UNH had a pair of empty possessions before Harkey shot wide at 15:48. UMBC retained possession and Harkey set up Platz for a goal and 5-3 lead at 15:32.
That is when Wohltmann won the first of four consecutive draws for UNH to ignite the Wildcats' comeback victory.