DURHAM, N.H. - Laura McHoul (Westwood, Mass.) broke the program's record with a total of 36 single-season assists, but the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team fell 19-5 to 20th-ranked University at Albany at Memorial Field on Saturday.
UNH closes its regular season at 7-9 overall and 2-3 in America East. The fourth-seeded Wildcats will play top-seeded and host Stony Brook University in a Friday, May 2 semifinal game at LaValle Stadium; game time is 5 p.m. Albany increased its record to 13-2, 4-1; the Great Danes tied SBU for the America East regular-season title and, as the second seed, will play third-seeded University of Vermont in Friday's second semifinal game.
McHoul initially had 33 season assists at the start of the game, and had an even benchmark of 35 single-season assists established by Karen Geromini in 1986 at 4:34 of the first half. McHoul became the record holder with the last of her three assists at 25:05 of the second half.
Laura Puccia recorded a career high near the end of the first half with 39 goals for the season. Taylor Hurwitz (Holland, Pa.) had a strong performance in net with a total of 12 saves, six in each half, by the end of the game.
Albany was carried by Ariana Parker (three goals, four assists), Katherine Sweeney (5g), Maureen Keggins (4g), Rachel Bowles (3g), Allie Phelan (2g, 1a) and Sarah Martin (2g, 1a). Anna Berman was credited with four saves. As a team, the Great Danes tallied 40 shots and 17 draw controls.
The Great Danes began with an early 2-0 lead within the first two minutes of the first, as Sweeney took advantage of a free-position shot, firing the first goal of the game past Hurwitz, followed by an unassisted goal from Martin.
UNH made a transition, as passes were crisp and on point to result in a goal on the scoreboard for the Wildcats. Molly Gaffey (North Hampton, N.H.) earned credit for the goal as Marissa Gurello (Manorville, N.Y.) contributed with the assist at 26:33 in the first to move the score to 2-1.
Phelan then added another goal on a free position shortly after at 25:57.
Rachel Nock (Severna Park, Md.) cleared the ball for the 'Cats, found an opening to advance further across the field and fired the ball past the Danes' goalkeeper at 24:13 for a 3-2 score.
Albany subsequently had three consecutive goals spanned across six minutes, the first of which was by Sweeney, assisted by Phelan, at 22:56. The Great Danes had to work for the following two goals as Hurwitz displayed quick movements and clean blocks for the Wildcats. Parker found a gap in goal to increase the score 5-2 at 19:13. Keggins scored at 16:12 when she launched a shot to bounce between the goalie's legs. Meghan Haney caused a turnover, corralled the ground ball and executed pass to assist Keggins.
The Wildcats were able to find control as Nicole Grote (Ellicott City, Md.), off a pass from McHoul, powered a one-timer past Berman to put up a 6-3 score.
Yet again, Albany was able to maintain control of the ball and score three goals in a row. Keggins registered her second goal of the game with assistance from Parker to gain the 7-3 lead with 11:16 left in the first. Although UNH was down, Hurwitz put on a solid performance and quick blocks for the Wildcats. Sweeney marked her second goal on a free position with 6:14 remaining for a rise of 8-3. The goal was followed by an unassisted goal from Parker at 5:52, which was her second of the game.
About a minute later at 4:34, Puccia marked her 39th goal of the season off McHoul's pass from the left wing.
With only nine seconds remaining in the first half, a goal was added to Albany on the combination from Phelan to Parker to end the first half in its favor 10-4.
The last half of the game began with the Great Danes producing three successive goals in a time frame of five minutes. Sweeney began the spurt and extended the visitor's advantage to 11-4 at 29:09. Directly after, Bowles scored back-to-back unassisted (28:47) and free-position goals (25:41). At that point, Albany gathered 13 goals, while UNH had 4.
UNH got a hold of the ball, and at 25:03 Nock scored a goal on a pass from McHoul, which set the record of 36 assists in a single season and advanced the score to 13-5.
The Great Danes continued to direct the ball and racked up six goals the remainder of the game. Keggins scored a player-up goal at 23:53, and 45 seconds later Martin produced an unassisted goal for a markup of 15-5. Sweeney launched a shot for a goal at 19:30, followed by Bowles' third goal, from Parker, at 17:15.
The teams exchanged possession in a scoreless stretch off 11 minutes before Parker and Keggins scored their second goals of the game at 6:02 and 3:27, respectively, to cap the game scoring.
With the team-high three assists, McHoul increased her career total to 69 to supplant Liz Brickley (67) at No. 4 on UNH's leaderboard.
UNH's six-member Class of 2014 – Megan Bozek (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), Jamie DePetris (Radnor, Pa.), Cara Dowdle (Northbrook, Ill.), Molly Gaffey, Cori Rees (East Hampstead, N.H.) and Ally Stager (Reading, Mass.) – was honored at the conclusion of the game. This group led the 'Cats to America East postseason play three times in four years.
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