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Game 31 / America East Quarterfinal Mar 1 (Wed) 7:00 PM Troy, N.Y. McDonough Sports Complex - HVCC "This is March Madness"

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Quest to repeat title begins


By Abigail Rubel

UAlbany vs. UMass Lowell

■› When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

■› Where: McDonough Sports Complex, Hudson Valley Community College, Troy

■› Stream: ESPN+

Jim Franco / Times Union

Junior Morgan Haney said UAlbany is “focused on the next goal” following its regular-season co-title.

Jim Franco / Times Union

UAlbany senior forward Helene Haegerstrand was named first-team all-America East after being the league’s third-leading scorer with 14.9 points per game.

ALBANY — Last season, the University at Albany women’s basketball team didn’t know what to expect heading into the America East Tournament, but that didn’t stop the Great Danes from winning it.

“We weren’t really expecting it, but we were just excited to win, and I think this year there’s that expectation there,” redshirt junior guard Morgan Haney said.

UAlbany, which returned 11 players from last year’s squad and was picked first in the America East preseason poll, has had the goal of winning another title all season.

The Great Danes earned a share of the regular-season title in their last game, a comfortable win over NJIT. But with playoffs looming, the excitement was short lived.

“Winning the regular season, it’s a huge accomplishment, but I think we were already kind of focused on the next goal,” Haney said.

The team’s attempt to achieve that goal starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when the Great Danes (20-10, 14-2 America East) host No. 7 UMass Lowell (5-21, 4-12) in a quarterfinal matchup at Hudson Valley Community College.

“We know what it takes to do it, so I think that gives us comfort, but we can’t get too comfortable,” junior guard Kayla Cooper said.

Having a veteran team certainly makes things easier on coach Colleen Mullen, who described her approach to practice as “business as usual.”

“I just really need to get out of their way,” she said. “They know what to do, they’ve been there before, and they really want to win.”

The River Hawks won their last three games to earn a postseason spot. Sophomore guard Ivory Finley leads the team with 9.9 points per game, and senior guard/forward Kaylen Banwareesingh averages 8.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

“They have really amped up their intensity, amped up their defense. They’ve always played confidently, but they’re really starting to gel,” Mullen said of UMass Lowell, which started the season on a six-game losing streak.

UAlbany swept the River Hawks in the regular season, overcoming a slow start in both games and taking over in the third quarter.

Though the games are now win-or-go-home, there was a certain sense of giddiness before practice Tuesday.

“Once you get towards the end of the season there’s just a lot more excitement in general, surrounding each game, surrounding each practice, which you never know when it’s going to be your last,” Haney said.

America East honors announced

Cooper and senior forward Helene Haegerstrand were named to the all-America East first team along with Vermont’s Anna Olson and Emma Utterback and Maine’s Adrianna Smith.

Haegerstrand and Cooper both average 14.9 points per game, and Haegerstrand ranks third in the conference in scoring. (Because Cooper missed most of the non-conference schedule with a knee injury, she hasn’t played enough games to be ranked.) Cooper also averages 8.4 rebounds per game.

Fifth-year guard Ellen Hahne earned third-team and all-defensive team nods. She averages 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and leads the Great Danes with 68 assists and 33 steals.

Smith, who leads the America East in scoring (18.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg), was named Player of the Year, the third-straight year a Maine player took the honor. UMBC’s Kiara Bell was named Defensive Player of the Year as the only player to rank in the top four in blocks and steals. Bell, a Long Island transfer, was also named the first-ever Newcomer of the Year. NJIT’s Alejandra Zuniga took home Rookie of the Year, and Sixth Player of the Year went to UMBC’s Nia Staples.

Vermont coach Alisa Kresge was named Coach of the Year for leading the Catamounts to their first regular-season title since 2001-02.

▶› Abigail.Rubel@timesunion.com

A @abigail_rubel

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  • cwdickens changed the title to Game 31 / America East Quarterfinal Mar 1 (Wed) 7:00 PM Troy, N.Y. McDonough Sports Complex - HVCC "This is March Madness"

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