The UConn field hockey team had another stellar defensive performance Sunday afternoon, in a 4-0 win against Harvard. The Huskies (5-0) did not allow a shot on goal until very late in the second half, and Harvard finished the game with only one shot on goal.
The shutout was UConn’s first on the season, but the Huskies have held their opponents to two goals or less in each game so far this season.
“To give up two goals, we’re really unhappy with that,” head coach Nancy Stevens said. “Our focus is to get shutouts, and so today we were proud of the defensive effort.”
Coach Stevens’ high expectations have not phased the Husky defense. To succeed with the pressure Coach puts on them, the defense needs a leader to hold everyone together. This year, senior Anna Middendorf anchors the defense.
“Anna is, as they say, ‘the straw that stirs the drink,’” Stevens said. “As one of the captains, she really leads the defense.”
Middendorf is just part of the back line that held Harvard to three shots all game. Key members joining her are senior Olivia Bolles, and juniors Casey Umstead and Karlie Heistand.
“To have Olivia, Anna, Karlie and Casey back there, I think we do have four of the top backs in the country,” Stevens said.
Against Harvard, Umstead scored a goal on a penalty corner and had an assist on a Charlotte Veitner goal. Coming in as a striker, she has become a vital part to the UConn defense, earning the Big East Defensive Player of the Week honor last week with her performance against Drexel.
“Casey’s been great at left back,” Stevens said. “She came to us as a striker, so for her to move to the back was a big adjustment for her. I think she’s done a terrific job.”
The Huskies defense plays a big part in their offensive game plan. Umstead and Middendorf have combined for nine of UConn’s 20 goals of the season. Bolles has three assists so far this season, and has been a big part of the counter attacking strategy of the Huskies.
“With someone like Olivia, her offense is going to come from her interceptions,” Stevens said. “We like to front mark and go for the ball, and I think for Olivia a lot of her attack comes from that.”
The defense will look to continue their hot start to the season on Friday against Big East foe Old Dominion.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.