Last time SMU (5-6-3) and UConn (5-6-3) got together it was here at Joseph J. Morrone stadium for the 2016 American Conference Championship, a game UConn won 1-0 delivering them dual conference championships and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The time before that was when the Mustangs gave the Huskies their lone quasi-hiccup, a 0-0 double-overtime draw at SMU, in the conference regular season. Last year the two were fierce NCAA tournament teams.
This year’s clubs have both underwhelmed compared to their former selves, but last nights' battle was no different as UConn won a tightly contested 2-1 game with a goal in the 88th minute.
After SMU earned three quick corner kicks, UConn scored the first goal of the match seven minutes in.
Freshman Yamilee Eveillard, who scored in the Huskies last time out against Memphis, would score her third goal of the season after sophomore midfielder Erin Spillane made a nice pass to her in the box.
“Erin has been playing really well on both sides of the ball. She covers a lot ground and is very good with the ball,” said head coach Len Tsantiris.
Eveillard also had a good chance with 16 minutes remaining in the second half as she made a sliding kick on a rebound of a previous shot but missed high.
Tsantiris felt Eveillard exemplified what he called “physical speed” all game, a trait UConn’s young players were lacking earlier in the season.
“They get it. They get it (Physical Speed). Physical speed means you have to go all out. They are starting to understand that.”
The Huskies had a good bid at about halfway through the first half when a nice pass was lofted in to the feet of freshman Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky right at the near corner of the 6’. It was a quick set and rip that soared over the center of the net.
As the half started to close, SMU got a great chance as a free kick found senior forward Claire Oates inside the 18’ but she got under the ball and her shot missed high.
UConn goalie Courtney Hofer was active in the first half, including running out and misplaying ball in which she gave the SMU attacker an accident arm to the face as neither reached the ball. The Mustangs also had four corner kicks to UConn’s one.
However the Huskies most carried the play and outshot SMU 8-3, with each goalie making a two saves each.
SMU had it going early in the second half keeping Hofer active. After an impressive save that forced a Mustang corner kick, the Husky defense finally cracked.
Junior defender Haley Thompson took the corner from the far side and her ball into the box was met by the head of sophomore defender Katharine Herron who knocked passed Hofer for the equalizer.
Both teams had some bids rescinded by offsides, and Eveillard had her third notable effort of the game, putting a hard and accurate shot on but it was from near the 18’ allowing SMU goalkeeper Catie Brown to react accordingly and make a save.
Brown would also make an impressive leaping save off a UConn shot to the back corner of the net with about 13 minutes remaining off the foot of Kess Elmore.
Neither team was generating much of a chance, then with just over two minutes left in the game Eveillard again.
Eveillard received the ball on the far side from Erin Spillane in what appeared to be, and what video confirmed, a slightly offsides position.
With a leg up and blazing speed Eveillard held off a Mustang defender and beat a charging Brown with a low kick into the back of the net.
The controversial goal was not well received by SMU head coach Chris Petrucelli and he let the officials, and what appeared to be the UConn side line, know about it. The SMU video coordinator could be heard raining obscenities from the top of the Morrone press box.
Still it was a key win to keep the Huskies competitive and with a winning record in conference play.
“We got to win the next game, that’s the big game. After that, we got to think about the next one. That’s how it goes,” Tsantiris said on finishing strong.
Up next is the conference’s other Texas team, Houston, who comes to Storrs on Sunday night after just falling to Temple 2-0 in Philadelphia. The Cougars had three games cancelled this season due to the fallout of Hurricane Harvey. They only share one mutual opponent so far, as Memphis has defeated them both; UConn lost 3-2 while Houston lost 2-1 in overtime.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.