The UConn women’s soccer team picked up another conference victory over the visiting UCF Knights in a 3-0 win at Morrone Stadium. The Huskies (12-2-1) would continue their conference undefeated streak in what was a fairly physical contest.
The early parts of the first half were uneventful with UCF (6-6-1) having the best chance on a cross where senior forward Carol Rodrigues attempted a bicycle kick with no luck. Both teams played evenly but without substantial chances.
UConn would generate their first strong chance about 17 minutes in. Redshirt senior forward Stephanie Ribeiro put in a hard cross from the near side that senior forward Rachel Hill got a head on but missed wide.
UCF would counter with a bid of their own at the 25 minute mark. UCF set up possession off a corner and freshman midfielder Zandy Soree put a hard shot on, but it was turned away by senior goalie Emily Armstrong, part of a strong night for her.
The action would pick up substantially about 30 minutes in. First, coming off a corner, there was a scramble for the ball in the box and Armstrong became out of position. The UConn defense made a couple blocks before a UCF foul bailed them out.
Less than a minute after, UConn was coming the other way. Sophomore midfielder Kim Urbanek made a nice pass to Hill down the sidelines. Hill then put a cross in that missed a crashing Ribeiro but found freshman forward Alexa Casamiro, who put a shot on but UCF keeper Vera Varis came out to make the save.
At the 35 minute mark, UCF set up shop atop the UConn box as Rodrigues and junior midfielder Hannah Debose shared some nifty passing back and forth before Rodrigues put a hard shot on but Armstrong came up big again with a diving save to her left.
Five minutes later UConn nearly broke open the game. After UConn pressure, Hill stole a pass from Varis and sent it to Ribeiro who put a low shot on. Varis made the save but with an available rebound at first. As she regained possession, Hill went to dig for the ball and the result was a foot to Varis’ face.
Hill was given a yellow card on the ball and Varis had to leave the game with her injury, bringing freshman Chloe N’Gazi to play goal, the first time anyone other than Varis had seen action for the Knights in net all season.
After mounting pressure, UConn would break through less than a minute before halftime. Hill was fouled going down the far sideline. Ribeiro would take the free kick and her pass found the feet of redshirt senior defender Toriana Paterson who punched it in for her first goal of the season.
“I was beyond excited Tori Paterson scored because she’s being playing so amazing this year,” Armstrong said.
After a half where Armstrong kept UConn in the game, to strike right before the half was an asset.
“It was just such a relief knowing we had one in the back of the net. However, knowing that, in my mind it was still 0-0 and I couldn’t be complacent at all knowing UCF is such a talented team,” Armstrong said.
UCF would open up the second half on the offensive, creating several opportunities. Most notable was a shot that hit the far post where Rodrigues also got the rebound deep in the box. She sent on a hard shot on but Armstrong made the catch.
Despite UCF’s pressure, UConn would strike again. Ribeiro gained possession not too far past the midfield line and would send a long, well placed through ball up field. Using her pure speed, Hill would beat her defender to the ball and use a nice touch to beat Varis with a low shot tucked in by the post. It was good for her 11th goal of the season. It was also Ribeiro’s 10th assist of the season.
The Huskies weren’t done. In the 66th minute Ribeiro would steal the ball from a Knight player and send an open shot past Varis for her 13th on the year.
The Huskies would take their foot off the gas after that, only generating one or two more serious chances. The Knights would keep pushing, but to no avail. UConn was actually outshot 16-14 on the night and it was a challenging game, but their ability to finish earned them the win.
“Let me tell you this game was not easy. We got the goals…Other than that, we had chances, they had chances but the bottom line is who puts them in the net,” head coach Len Tsantiris said after the game.
The Huskies will continue their home stand against the Florida schools as a challenging game against the University of Southern Florida Bulls come to Storrs Sunday. Before falling to SMU last week, USF (10-1-1) was ranked higher than the Huskies in the polls. Their defeat to the Mustangs knocked them out of the Top 25 but they still received votes and are a talented bunch.
Freshman forward Evelyn Vienes carries them offensively while their defense has allowed the least goals in the conference.
“Both (UCF and USF) are kind of the same team. They have some foreign kids, good players, they possess the ball. It’s going to be the same kind of game. We have to work to get through that team,” Tsantiris said.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.