Women’s soccer rides with seniors to second round of NCAA tournament

Senior midfielder Maddie Damm (7) fires off a goal during the Huskies 4-2 victory over the UAlbany Great Danes during the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. This is Damm's second goal of the season. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

It didn’t take long for the UConn women’s soccer team to put a nail in the University at Albany’s coffin. In their last game at Morrone Stadium for the 2016 season, UConn poured in the goals as they decisively won 4-2 on Saturday night.

“We went in and scored quick goals, we got pressure in there and everything else… and we took the foot off the pedal for a while, and then they got in the game,” head coach Len Tsantiris said. “I thought we responded well after we talked at halftime. The second half was totally ours. We could have had more goals, but we had four goals… that will win the game.”

SUPER SENIORS

It was the last home game for the careers of Stephanie Ribeiro, Rachel Hill, Toriana Patterson, Maddie Damm and Emily Armstrong. The five seniors were very much the backbone of this year’s team, with Hill and Ribeiro accounting for 35 out of 44 total goals on the season. Armstrong recorded 10 shutouts, and Patterson anchored a strong Husky defense that helped keep the scores so low.

In many respects, every single senior got a chance to shine. Ribiero, Hill and Damm all scored goals, but Damm’s may have been the prettiest. Surrounded by four defenders on the corner of the box, she used fancy footwork to maneuver around all of them and crossed a rocket of a shot into the opposite corner of the goal.

The goal may have only inconsequentially added to the already wide UConn lead, but for Damm, it was something much more than that.

“It was amazing, especially after missing a couple early in the game. I really needed one, especially being my last game at this stadium, it was awesome,” Damm said.

It was Damm’s second goal of the season, and only the fourth of her career. A transfer from Syracuse, she has played her junior and senior year in a Husky uniform, and couldn’t be more thankful for it.

“I’m extremely lucky… it’s been the most amazing experience here for me, and tonight was pretty awesome,” Damm said.

Hill’s goal came at a much more vital time. After the Great Danes made it a one-goal game at the end of the first half, Hill scored five minutes into the second half to balloon UConn’s lead to 3-1.

Armstrong let up two goals, the first time she has let up more than one goal since Sept. 29 against Tulsa. However, both of the goals from UAlbany were nothing short of fantastic, as they were both perfectly placed into the top corner of the net.

“There’s nothing you can do about that. You take a shot, it goes in, okay. They didn’t build anything up, so I wasn’t worried about that,” Tsantiris said.

IT’S GOTTA BE THE CLEATS

For the first time in a month, a player other than Stephanie Ribeiro and Rachel Hill scored. Exactly four minutes into the game, freshman Alexa Casimiro netted her second goal of the season off an assist from Hill.

About five minutes later, Ribeiro followed up with a goal of her own, her 21st goal of the season. After some activity in front of UAlbany’s net, Ribeiro launched a shot into the corner of the net, past the dive of goalkeeper Chloe Borasky.

Both goals were clearly the product of bright, neon orange cleats that both players donned on the field. Lots of players wear a specific pair of shoes as part of superstition, but Ribeiro didn’t have any special reason for her sudden switch.

“I just forgot my other cleats at my house,” Ribeiro said with a laugh. “I just used the other pair from my locker.”

The Huskies will be headed to Gainesville, Florida for the second round of the NCAA tournament. They will take on Auburn, who finished their regular season with a 13-5 record. They lost in the second round of the SEC Tournament, but own the No. 4 seed in their region of the bracket.

“We can go all the way,” Ribeiro said. “But it all depends on us, though. We gotta keep playing our game and keep doing what we’re doing.”

The two will play on Friday, Nov. 18. Kickoff is slated to be at 3 p.m.


Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.