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Women’s Basketball Falls to Colgate in First Round of WNIT

By Vince Gasparini | March 25, 2024

The University at Albany women’s basketball team’s season came to an end on Thursday as they fell to Colgate 64-50 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). 

Kayla Cooper making a baseline drive towards the basket on Thursday night.

Photo Credit: Vince Gasparini / The ASP

The Great Danes’ only lead of the game came early, when they were the first to score off of a layup by Deja Evans. However, Colgate went on to shoot 59.3%, including 5-7 from beyond the arc, in the first half, leading 39-25 by halftime. The Great Danes were unable to make up any ground in the second half, with both teams scoring 25 points en route to a victory for the Raiders.

“We were shooting pretty well but we were turning the ball over,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said. Despite shooting 52.4% from the field in the first half, the Great Danes committed 11 turnovers in the same time span. 

“Our defense wasn’t our normal defense,” continued Mullen. Three separate Raiders scored double-digit points on a UAlbany defense that allowed just 51.3 points per game during the 2023-24 season, which was fewer than any other team in their conference.

Mullen’s sentiment was reiterated by junior guard Meghan Huerter, who said “that first half definitely wasn’t our brand of basketball.”

“We’re a defensive-minded team,” Huerter continued. “We average [around] 50 points per game to teams. That right there is the biggest thing for us; we feed off our defense.”

Colgate’s offensive barrage on the Great Danes was led by Taylor Golembiewski, who scored 17 points. Her performance was backed by a 16-point night by Sophia Diehl, and 13 points from Tiasia McMillan. Diehl led her team in rebounds with eight, and Alexa Brodie dished out a team-leading six assists.

“I think they were obviously really excited,” Mullen said while speaking about Colgate’s performance. It was Colgate’s first WNIT appearance in program history, and their first postseason tournament appearance since the 2004 NCAA Tournament. “Their coaches have done a really good job of rebuilding the program here and getting it to a level of competitiveness.”

Senior guard Kayla Cooper led UAlbany in both scoring and rebounding, putting up 23 points and eight rebounds.

“Obviously not the outcome we wanted,” Cooper said. “Colgate’s a good team. They got to a good start, we had a little bit of a slow start. We gave it our all in the second half, but we dug ourselves a little too deep.”

Sarah Karpell posted 12 points, followed by a 11-point night from Huerter. Lilly Phillips led the Great Danes with six assists.

It was both Karpell’s and Helene Haegerstrand’s last game with UAlbany. Karpell transferred to UAlbany last offseason after spending four seasons at Fordham, and Haegerstrand has been with the Great Danes since her freshman season in 2019-2020, making her the team’s most tenured player.

In her five seasons, the 6’1” Swede averaged 10.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. After the 2023 season she was given First Team America East All-Conference honors after averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Haegerstrand’s time with the program has seen UAlbany become a powerhouse in America East basketball. After the team finished 9-21 overall and 5-11 in conference play her freshman year, the Great Danes made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2022 after they won the America East Tournament, and were also the conference regular season champions in 2023.

“[Helene] has been such a good leader to me,” said Cooper, who joined the team at the beginning of Haegerstrand’s sophomore year. “We’ve been through a lot. She was here my freshman year during COVID, and that was such a hard time but she was always that leader.”

“She’s always been such a good captain, such a good, unselfish player. She’s always there for you, and she’s such a hard worker,” Cooper continued.

“Her impact is instrumental,” Mullen said. “It’s transformative, really. She’s helped transform this program back to the perennial powerhouse it’s been in the past.”

UAlbany finished their season going 25-7 overall and 13-3 in conference play.

Looking towards next season, Huerter says that the Great Danes will be looking to broaden their capabilities as a basketball team.

“I definitely think that this offseason we’re gonna be working just to expand our game and make our team harder to guard,” Huerter said.

Colgate plays Providence in the second round of the WNIT on Monday.


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