Albany Women Show Staying Power, Upset No. 16-Ranked Penn State
from staff reports
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Coming off the best season in school history, the Albany women's lacrosse team appeared prime to continue its upward trajectory Saturday with an 8-7 upset of No. 16-ranked Penn State.
Sophomore Rachael Burek scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 6:29 remaining. The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 16 by the IWLCA coaches and rated No. 18 in the deBeer media poll.
Penn State (0-2) reversed a 6-5 deficit midway through the final period with a pair of goals. Lizzy Carney, a freshman midfielder, tied the contest with 14:23 remaining, before Jackie Eastman put her team in front just over a minute later. The go-ahead goal was set up by midfielder Theresa Zichelli's caused turnover and ground ball pickup.
Albany (2-0) drew even at seven apiece as senior attacker Jodi Battaglia converted Nikki Branchini's feed with 8:35 to play. The Great Danes regained the lead when Taylor Frink carried a ground ball into the zone. Battaglia found Burek in the middle and the Albany midfielder converted. Burek had an opportunity to give her team a two-goal advantage two minutes, but hit the post with a shot.
"The team showed a lot of resolve when they were down, especially the way they came back," said Albany's John Battaglino, who is in his first season as head coach. "We were able to put away shots when it counted and we had people go into the game who were able to keep the play constant."
The Nittany Lions, who opened their season with a loss to top-ranked Maryland on Feb. 20, led 4-2 in the first half when Laura Lesnick found the net off a pass from Mackenzie Cyr. Albany regrouped to tie the contest by halftime. Nikki Branchini scored two of her three goals in that span. She finished with a career-high four points.
Freshman goalkeeper Anna Berman made seven saves for the Great Danes, who defeated a national top-20 program for just the second time in their Division I history. Frink and Battaglia each added one goal and one assist. Penn State's Elaine Welch scored twice.
"We never gave up and everyone had to do their job 100 percent," said Branchini, last season's America East Conference player of the year. "It was a great opportunity for us beat a quality team early in the season and we took advantage of the situation."
UAlbany 8, #16 Penn State 7
UAlbany - Scoring: Nikki Branchini 3-1, Taylor Frink 1-1, Jodi Battaglia 1-1, Rachael Burek 1-0, Allie Phelan 1-0, Michelle Primomo 1-0; Goalkeeper(s): Anna Berman (60:00, 7 saves, 7 GA).
Penn State - Scoring: Elaine Welch 2-0, Mackenzie Cyr 1-1, Jen Steadman 1-1, Jackie Eastman 1-0, Laura Lesnick 1-0, Lizzy Carney 1-0; Goalkeeper(s): Dana Cahill (60:00, 9 saves, 8 GA).
Paw Prints: UAlbany defeated its second national top-20 team in the program's Division I history ... the Great Danes edged No. 13 New Hampshire, 16-15, in overtime on April 30, 2009 ... UAlbany is 23-23 in games decided by two goals or less at the Division I level ... the Great Danes last opened with two wins in the 2006 campaign ... Penn State was picked third in the American Lacrosse Conference preseason poll behind Northwestern and Vanderbilt ... Nikki Branchini equaled a career-high with three goals ... the senior also scored three times against Longwood (March 30, 2008) and Hofstra (March 1, 2010).