No. 18 UConn women’s soccer will open NCAA Tournament play Sunday at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The Huskies will host Siena in the tournament’s first round in Storrs, with the match scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
UConn (17-3-0) is coming off a disappointing departure from the American Athletic Conference tournament, as they fell 3-2 to Cincinnati in overtime of the semifinals after blowing a two-goal lead with 21 minutes to play.
Despite the loss, the Huskies still finished regular season and conference tournament play with a No. 18 ranking from NSCAA coaches and a No. 8 ranking in RPI. Conference-rival South Florida, who fell to Cincinnati in the American tournament final, came in at No. 22 and No. 11 on those two lists, respectively.
However, UConn’s 17-3-0 record was not enough to earn one of the four numerical seeds in any of the NCAA tournament’s four 16-team regions. Instead, the Huskies will take on Siena in the first round of their bracket without a numerical seed. Should they win, they will face the winner of the matchup between Oakland and No. 3 seed Notre Dame on the campus of Rutgers, the No. 2 seed in the Huskies’ 16-team bracket.
That may sound complicated, but the goal for UConn remains simple: win every game. The Huskies will be making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance in the program’s history, but they have yet to win it all. They were defeated in the final in 1984, 1990, 1997 and 2003. Last season, UConn was knocked out in the second round by Penn State.
To make a tournament run, the Huskies will need production from leading scorer Rachel Hill, who carried a five-game scoring drought into the American tournament before scoring 90 seconds into the quarterfinal match against East Carolina. Hill is leading the team with 13 goals and 29 points this season.
Other goal scoring candidates are Stephanie Ribeiro, Samantha McGuire and Andrea Plucenik, who combined for 16 goals this season. Ribeiro leads the team with seven assists, while Kim Urbanek has six of her own.
A strong defensive effort will also be necessary to make a run. Toriana Patterson, Annie Wickett and Liane Keegans are a few of the UConn defenders that are crucial to the team’s success. In net will be Emily Armstrong, who has a 0.85 goals against average in 2015.
The Huskies’ opponent to open NCAA championship play will be Siena, who will be making their second tournament appearance. Siena earned their bid by defeating Manhattan 5-2 for the MAAC championship last Sunday.
Siena will enter this weekend’s game on a hot streak, as they defeated the top three seeds in their conference tournament to claim the title. In doing so, they became the first No. 6 seed in MAAC history to win the league championship. The Saints are unbeaten in their last seven matches.
Siena’s scoring leader is Madison Vasquez, who has racked up seven goals and 16 points on the season. Meghan Riccardi and Allison Clark each have scored four goals of their own. Tora Sobierajski leads the Saints with seven assists.
In net for Siena will likely be Liz Rogan, who has accumulated a 0.99 goals against average this season.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer, covering women's soccer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.