The UConn women’s soccer team got yet another strong performance from seniors Rachel Hill and Stephanie Ribeiro as they took down conference foe Tulsa 4-2 on Thursday night.
Ribeiro finished the game with two goals and two assists, upping her season total to 10 goals and seven assists. Hill added two goals of her own and one assist, bringing her season totals to eight and four, respectively.
“I think once conference starts, we all know it’s a different season and it kind of just picks you up and makes you go that much harder,” Hill said. “[The team] used our width, and that’s what we practiced this week, so it worked out.”
The Huskies kicked off the game by dominating possession. At the 7th minute mark, Hill fed a ball perfectly to Ribeiro in the box, but the Tulsa defense was able to fight it off after UConn kicked it around a few more times.
Four minutes later, the duo got their revenge. Around 11th minute, referees called a foul on Tulsa, and the accused Tulsa player sat on the ground in protest. Ribeiro saw this as an opportunity and ran with it, softly kicking the ball past the sitting Tulsa player and fed the ball to Hill, who fired it into the back of the net for her seventh goal of the year.
However, the Hurricanes would not back down. Less than a minute later, freshman Anna Williams put one in off a rebound in front of the net, evening the score at one.
Again, the Huskies responded by taking control of possession once again. They got two good looks, one off a corner and one from senior Maddie Damm, but both looks amounted to nothing. It wasn’t until 21st minute that UConn struck back.
With Ribeiro left alone on the left side, Damm crossed the ball and Ribeiro fired a shot from just outside of the box. The ball curled around defenders, banked off the post and hit the back of the net. It was Ribeiro’s ninth goal of the season, and it gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
“[Ribeiro and Hill are] good, mature players. They find the right opportunities and they’re capable of finishing. That’s their qualities,” head coach Len Tsantiris said. “We’re winning games because they can finish.”
Tulsa got close to scoring off a corner soon after, but goalkeeper Emily Armstrong made a strong save off her hands to keep the Hurricanes from tying things up. UConn fired off three more shots before ending the half with a one goal advantage.
The Husky defense has tightened up as of late, giving up less and less shots and preventing the opposing offense from getting many good chances. Tsantiris said that the two goals Tulsa scored were unnecessary, but overall he sees a positive trend on the defensive side.
“You can call it luck, [the second goal] hit one of our defenders and deflected a little bit higher so the keeper couldn’t get it,” Tsantiris said. “But, but we did not clear the ball when we had to clear the ball.”
Tulsa opened up the second half with a vengeance. Two minutes in, they got a good look in front of the box, but more strong defense and good reflexed from Armstrong prevented the Hurricanes from tying the game.
The possession for the majority of the second half was very much back-and-forth in nature, with Tulsa and UConn both getting their fair share of opportunities. It wasn’t until 73rd minute where things started to get interesting.
Hill capitalized on a great feed from Ribeiro to net her second goal of the game and eighth of the year to give UConn a two goal advantage. Just like in the first half, however, Tulsa responded with another goal less than a minute later to put the Hurricane within one goal once again.
Around 74th minute, Tulsa was inches away from tying the game, but one of their own players did not see where the ball was and stopped it before it could cross the line.
Ribeiro tacked on one more unassisted goal at 78th minute before the game came to a close. The Huskies finished 11 shots, while the UConn defense continues to grow stronger, holding Tulsa to only three shots.
“Of course, we make mistakes like we did today, and we pay for it,” Tsantiris said, referring to the nature in which Tulsa scored their two goals. “But the bottom line is to do what we can do, work hard, play ball, fight and do it together.”
This Sunday, UConn will take on the Memphis Tigers (7-2-1), who are by all accounts a much stronger team than Tulsa. Hill said that the team has recently seen just how well they can play, and that keeping the momentum going is the only thing on their minds.
“We’re on a high right now,” Hill said. “We’re really just taking it one game at a time.”
Tsantiris echoes the same sentiment. He said that the team just needs to correct some mistakes that were made today and keep playing like a cohesive unit.
“[Memphis is] a different team, a totally different team,” Tsantiris said. “We have some things we need to do on the defensive side of the game… you work on your defense, and you work on your finish.”
If the weather holds, kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Morrone Stadium.