Last year, UConn women’s soccer was the team to beat in the American as they dominated and remained a top 25 squad all season long.
This season UCF has taken the torch from them and then some. Coming into last night’s contest the Knights (11-1-1) were No. 7 in the coach’s poll and No. 5 in RPI.
Early on, the Knights put the pressure on the UConn defense and goalkeeper Courtney Hofer, with three shots and two corner kicks in the first 15 minutes. Soon it was too much as senior forward Morgan Ferrara would score her 12th goal of the season, putting her in the lead in the conference, on an assist from sophomore midfielder Katriina Kuoksa.
The Knights would also earn three more shots before UConn could reverse momentum.
UConn (6-7-3) got a quality bid around the 27th minute on a corner from junior forward Vivien Beil, their assist leader, that found Erin Spillane in the box, who put a shot on but could not convert. Spillane had scored several goals recently, but not tonight.
At the half UCF had outshot UConn 10-5 and shots on goal 5-1.
After the break, the Knights picked up where they left off with two shots and a corner kick quickly, while in the 53rd minute freshman Yamilee Eveillard earned a yellow card.
UCF’s Kathleen Sousa was shown a yellow card in the 63rd minute, but they kept the pressure on and it paid dividends.
Their attack earned them a corner kick at the 68:16 mark. Junior midfielder Carrie Lawrence took the kick and put in play in the 18-yard box where senior Bridget Callahan buried the second goal of the Knight’s night with a header of an assist from Sousa.
A minute after the goal Elena Santos picked up the game’s third yellow card, but all the energy couldn’t spur UConn forward as UCF kept at it.
The Huskies sputtered in a sort of comeback effort, as their last shot was a miss high by junior Kim Urbanek in the 63rd minute. The Knights ultimately outshot them 18-7, a more glaring 8-1 on goal.
Hofer had six saves and the Huskies can take some solace in knowing UCF is one of the premier teams in the country this year, but the loss puts UConn below .500 on the season. For a group jockeying for a spot and positioning in the American conference tournament, every loss hurts.
The Huskies return to play on Sunday, and things won’t get much easier. They’ll travel to Tampa to take on the second-place USF (10-3), who are 5-1 in conference play. They’ve won four straight games entering Thursday and received three votes in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll, meaning they’re just outside the top-25 in the nation.
The Bulls, like UCF, run a high-powered offense that puts a lot of pressure on opponents’ back line. Prior to their Thursday contest, they produced about 17 shots per game, generating 2.33 goals per game, putting them at third in the conference. On the defensive end, the Bulls are also near the top of the conference, allowing only 1.5 goals per game.
USF is also more mistake-prone than most. They commit over 10 fouls per game, have the second-most offsides in the conference and have been awarded more yellow cards per game than any team in the American.
Sophomore Evelyne Viens is the focal point of the USF attack, and it’s not close. Viens, a Canada native, leads the team with nine goals (next highest is three), and also has a team-high seven assists. It’s not hard to see why: Viens has taken a whopping 55 shots in 12 games, easily leading the whole conference in shots per game. Her 25 points also lead the American.
In goal for the Bulls is senior Kat Elliot, who has 50 saves on the year but has one of the lower save percentages in the conference at .746.
The match between UConn and USF is set for 1 p.m. in Tampa as the Huskies look to add a statement win to their resume.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.