The UAlbany Great Danes women’s basketball continued their storybook season Tuesday night when they took the court for the semifinal of the American East Tournament defeating the Vermont Catamounts 67-54. The Great Danes shot the lights out at SEFCU Arena as they advanced to the American East Championship for the first time since 2017.
After a quarterfinal game against the University of New Hampshire that saw UAlbany unable to execute offensively, the Great Danes seemed to be clicking on all cylinders against Vermont, shooting 45% from the floor and 50% on their nine makes from three-point range.
Helene Haegerstrand was one of the stars of the show for UAlbany. Following a dismal performance in the quarterfinal where she only managed three points, Haegerstrand led the team with 18 points on 67% from the field. The UAlbany star forward had it going from long distance as she went 4-5 from beyond the arc.
“We’ve had more practices this week because there’s been less games and a lot of time to prepare,” said Haegerstad when asked about the team's comfort level during the game. “It’s our home gym and this is where we want to shoot well…this was how it’s supposed to be.”
Equally impressive for the Great Danes was Senior guard Elle Hahne. Hahne, who began the year as a starter then was moved to the bench following a bout with COVID-19, scored 17 points and was arguably the most impactful player on the court. Her seven rebounds and two steals do not encapsulate the energy and defensive intensity she brought to the floor after coming in for the injured defensive standout Lucia Decortes.
“In March everything can happen,” said Hahne. “[Decortes] going down was obviously bad for us because she’s so important to us, but we can’t focus on not having her. We need to focus on what we need to do and how we can step up for her.”
Hahne set the tone for UAlbany off the bench, but the contributions from the rest of the second unit can’t be understated. The Great Danes scored 38 bench points to only four from Vermont. Sharpshooter Freja Werth continued her big shot-making with eight big points to go with six rebounds, and American East Sixth Player of the Year Morgan Haney added six points and three assists.
UAlbany led by as much as 16 in the fourth quarter, but Vermont did not go quietly. The Catamounts' full-court pressure saw the UAlbany lead cut to seven before Haney found Kayla Cooper for an and-one basket that put the game away. Cooper had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists for the Great Danes as she continued her great play in the tournament.
“This has been quite a road for this team, and since my staff and I took over the program,” said Head Coach Colleen Mullen after the game. “To watch them have that great execution and withstand a terrific team in Vermont…I’m so happy and proud of the team they’ve certainly earned it.”
The UAlbany women will travel to Maine Friday for the championship game. They will look to beat the Black Bears for the first time this season and secure the program’s first American East Championship under Coach Mullen.