New Paltz Sports Information Department
Keene, NH — The State University of New York at New Paltz field hockey season came to an end Wednesday in the first round of the NCAA tournament after suffering a 4-3 loss to hosting Keene State University.
The Hawks had a dominating first half, holding possession for most of the period in the Owls' (18-6 overall) defensive zone. However, Keene State struck first, taking advantage on a transition opportunity 11 minutes into the game. But, the Hawks didn't allow the lead to last long, storming back on the ensuing re-start to tie up the score at one.
Maggie Cottrell took the ball end line and sent a pass in front of goal where Sophia Urrutia was there to knock in her sixth goal of the season. It was an offensive onslaught from there for the Hawks, who kept the pressure on the Owls defense. They added another 30 seconds later to take their first lead of the game. Jessica Ascencao slipped a pass by Keene State goalie Rachel Loseby (seven saves) and found Carly Croteau in front of the cage. Croteau got enough on the ball to sneak her shot in for the goal.
"I thought we answered from getting behind and we did a good job of putting on a lot of pressure on their defense and capitalizing on some of the opportunities and coming close on multiple opportunities as well," said SUNY New Paltz coach Shanna Szablinski.
Kaitlyn Gunter then put away the Hawks' third goal of the game midway through the first half. Off a corner by Samantha Ackerman, Jackie Kanapes received the pass and played the ball back in front of goal. After a few attempts that were blocked, SUNY New Paltz stayed persistent on the rebound with the Owls unable to clear. Gunter, waiting patiently on the back pipe, found the ball and knocked her shot past Loseby for the score.
SUNY New Paltz had numerous scoring opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the half to build upon its two-goal cushion. Serena Capsello was inches away from netting the Hawks' fourth with 13 minutes left before the break, but her attempt hit the post and went out of play.
Croteau had one final look before time expired, but just missed slipping her shot past Loseby, who came out to make the stop before halftime.
"At halftime I thought we were playing well," Szablinski said. "We were playing controlled in our attacking end, and I thought one thing we could've done a little bit better was overall team defense. That kind of trickled in to the second half. When we started in the second half I just felt like we just were not stepping up strong to the ball, denying opportunities and that created a lot of chances for them in our attacking end."
The script flipped in the second half, as Keene State slowly chipped away at the deficit, scoring its first of its three second-half goals 12 minutes into the second half. Kelsey Roberts tied the game up with 12 minutes remaining, as she got a deflection off a shot by Nina Bruno.
With just more than two minutes remaining in the game, the Owls scored the go-ahead goal off a hit from Ally McCall. Julia Babbitt got a deflection off the attempt, which sailed past Hawks goalie Ryan Dowling (two saves) for the score.
"I thought defensively we could have played better," Szablinski said. "We could have made better decisions with winning the ball in transition, so we kind of struggled with that today."
Despite the uneven second half, the Hawks still put themselves in position to tie the game and force overtime. They earned five penalty corners in the final nine minutes, resulting in six shots, but could not convert. Croteau had the best look with 30 seconds ticking down, but her shot sailed inches wide of the cage. Keene State held on from there to cement the, 4-3 outcome.
"We had opportunities with having multiple corners and even several drives going into the cage, but just couldn't finish," Szablinski said. "When you're playing in a big game like that it is really important to not fall behind. With nine minutes left on the clock you have to retain your lead, you have to continue to take opportunities in the circle and you have to be very poised on defense. I just think that kind of hurt us moving forward. With nine minutes left we're trying to scramble from behind, so that was tough."
SUNY New Paltz out-shot the Owls, 22-16 in the game including, 13-9 in the first half, while also holding the advantage in penalty corners (10-5). Croteau led the Hawks with five shots with four on target, while Urrutia and Ascencao followed with four shots apiece.
SUNY New Paltz ends the season at 12-8 overall after earning its fifth State University at New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) title and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks return a young roster, but lose a decorated senior class of Ackerman, Capsello and Cottrell. The trio end their careers 44-35 overall and two-time conference champions.
"I think the seniors did a tremendous job with holding standards high," Szablinksi said. "They had the opportunity to win a [conference] championship their freshmen year and compete in the NCAA tournament, and not having that opportunity two years really fueled their fire. I think they did a good job of setting the tone from day one and really challenging their teammates to be their very best. They really took everybody in and supported them and showed them unconditional love throughout the season and that helps to create a really great learning environment and room for us to grow. They did a tremendous job, all three of them. It's what you can hope for as a coach that they develop and grow into great players, but also into compassionate human beings, and that is what they did."