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Women’s Basketball Knocked Out in America East Second Round by Vermont

By Christian Hince | March 16, 2024

The University at Albany’s final game in the Broadview Center on Monday (3/11) was a heartbreaking one, with them losing 50-46 to third-seeded Vermont in the second round of the America East tournament.

Helene Haegerstrand (#14) led the Great Danes in rebounds during her final game in Albany.

Photo Credit: Christian Hince / The ASP

“This one really hurts on your home floor,” Mullen said. “I felt like we really controlled the game.”

The second-seeded Great Danes led for over 27 minutes of game time and were up by as much as 10, but always left the Catamounts within reach. Both teams traded leads across the game’s final three minutes before an Emma Utterback three off a pass from Delaney Richason made it 48-46 with 14.1 seconds left. After UAlbany advanced the ball past halfcourt and called a timeout, Kayla Cooper dribbled from the top of the key to the hoop but couldn’t make the layup over Vermont forward Anna Olson. The game was over following a brief series of desperation fouls.

It was Vermont’s third win over UAlbany this season and their fifth in a row dating back to last season where they defeated the Great Danes 38-36 in the America East title game. Catamounts’ coach Alisa Kresge has plenty of respect for Mullen’s program. “This was a hard fought win, and it's not because UAlbany is not good. They're really, really good,” she said.

Despite shooting just 39.6 percent as a team, Vermont had four double-digit scorers. Keira Hanson led with 13 points on 5-11 shooting which included three 3-pointers. Utterback’s 2-3 from beyond the arc propelled her to 12 points despite a 5-13 overall mark. Otherwise, Olson scored 11 points on 4-10 shooting, and Bella Vito scored 10 on 4-8 from the field.

The Great Danes had one of their better shooting nights at 47.7 percent as the team’s senior-most players led the way, as Kayla Cooper notched a team-high 16 points on 7-13 shooting. Polishing off her fourth year on the team, Cooper doesn’t plan for this to be her last as a Great Dane. “Albany’s my home, I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

Cooper, who easily led the team in scoring in 2023-24 with 15.7 points-per-game, will be the most tenured member of UAlbany’s roster next year, something which only delights her coach. 

“She's somebody that has grown so much as a young woman. Watching her maturity and being a small part of her journey has truly been a privilege,” Mullen said. “We're excited to have her back and to rebuild around her again for next year.”

This year’s most tenured UAlbany player had one of her best games this season, with Helene Haegerstrand scoring 15 points on 7-10 shooting and leading the team with seven rebounds. The fifth-year forward from Sweden started the year as a graduate assistant to the team due to health concerns and averaged single-digit scoring for the first time since her freshman year, but has nothing but appreciation for her time at UAlbany.

“It's a really good program and I'm just super happy for my experience and so proud of everything we've accomplished here,” she said while fighting back tears. “It's been a great year no matter [how] this game ended.”

Haegerstrand, who was one of Mullen’s first recruits to UAlbany, started her career well before the program established winning ways as the Great Danes went 9-21 during her freshman season in 2019-20, something her coach appreciates.

“She's built amazing relationships and friendships with everybody here, and she's been somebody that’s seen it through since the beginning,” Mullen said.

While this is UAlbany’s first time falling short of the conference title game since 2020-21, their 25-6 record is the best in Mullen’s career and best since 2015-16 when they finished 28-5 and upset Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Great Danes still have a chance to play again depending on how the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) selects its 48 teams on Sunday. Regardless, Mullen is proud of her program’s efforts as they stand today.

“Our staff works tirelessly to try to win and try to build a good culture,” she said. “I wouldn't be here without their unbelievable work ethic.”


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