This record-breaking season for the Husky Field Hockey team just got a little more special. The team recorded their 15th win of the season against Georgetown this past Saturday and remains undefeated. Their Big East win streak has extended to 23 games, dating all the way back to the 2013 season.
Charlotte Veitner tied a conference record with 10 points on the game, scoring five goals. This is her 16th career hat trick. The 10-0 victory also saw the first career point for freshman Kourtney Kennedy, an assist on the fourth goal of the game.
The most impressive performance of the game, however, has to go to goalie Nina Klein. Klein has officially broken the program record for shutouts in a career with 34. She’s also the program leader in wins.
The shutout was interesting in that Klein wasn’t actually on the field the entire time. She wasn’t replaced with another goalie, as that would have taken her out of the running for the shutout. Instead, head coach Nancy Stevens took the opportunity to practice a technique known as kicking-back.
“What happens is you can designate one player as a kicking back, and they actually have goalkeeping privileges. So in our sport, if the ball hits your body, that’s a foul. But the kicking-back, you put her in a different jersey, and that means she can stop the ball with her body,” Stevens explained. “We don’t encourage that, we don’t want her to get hurt, but if the ball hits into her foot or her leg, then that’s okay.”
Stevens is a strong advocate for practicing future strategies in-game against real competition.
“What we did was when we got ahead by a large margin against Villanova, we did the same thing, we pulled the goalkeeper, and when that happened here we did the same thing. There’s going to come a time, maybe in postseason, when we’re behind and when you’re behind you gotta pull the goalie and add an extra attacker. That’s something we practice during the week but it doesn’t have the same feel.”
Stevens was careful to not add another goalie after Klein’s exit, so that she would still earn her shutout and achieve the record. After the game, the team hugged and cheered for this milestone in Klein’s career.
“She’s tenacious. That’s really important. Nina was fortunate; she got to understudy for a year against one of the best goalies to ever play collegiate hockey, and that was Sarah Mansfield. Sarah helped lead us to a national championship in 2013, and then Nina took over in 2014 and had seven saves at the final four and we won another national championship, so the legacy will continue,” Stevens said on Klein’s time at UConn. “Cheri Herr is the goalkeeping coach, she was an All-American goalkeeper at Syracuse, so we devote a full-time position to a goalie coach which not everyone does. I think very few schools might do that. We think the position is that important to the outcome of the game that it is a high priority for us.”
Klein’s shutout performance consisted of a mere four saves. Georgetown got only nine shots during the game, outmatched by UConn’s 38 shots.
“It obviously feels great. The hard work does pay off, but I also have to think a lot about the players in front of me when this kind of thing happens. For a team that usually only gives up two or three shots a game, they make my job a lot easier,” Klein said of her record. “I’ve played with some incredible women over the past four years so I really have to give it to them as well as my coaches for setting the tone during practice and in games, and not wanting anything less than perfection. I’m not personally happy unless I’m walking away with a shutout.”
The kicking-back came with about 12 minutes left in the game, and Klein was forced to do something that she wasn’t used to either: stand on the sidelines and watch as her teammates defend her goal.
“It makes me more excited. I’m on the sideline kinda amped up, watching the play, still communicating with the defense,” Klein said. “Staying warm on the sideline and mentally talking to the defense, even if you’re on the sideline, helps you keep in the game.”
The UConn field hockey team is set to take on Quinnipiac Friday before returning home Sunday for Senior Day against Boston College in what will be their last game before the Big East Championship.
Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.