It took five frustrating games to do it, but the UConn women’s soccer team finally found the win column in dominant fashion.
The Huskies played a pair of games over the weekend, participating in a local tournament hosted by Central Connecticut State University, coming away with their third loss and their first victory of the young season.
Friday’s tournament opener against St. John’s was a perfect microcosm of the Huskies’ first four games. UConn dominated offensively for nearly the entire 90 minutes, but as has been the case all season, could not find the back of the net.
The Huskies created a number of excellent scoring opportunities in the first half, but were unable capitalize. Midway through the half, freshman Kess Elmore delivered a perfect cross to junior Livien Bell to set up an uncontested shot, but Bell’s attempt hooked wide. Then in the 41st minute, freshman Zoe Steck created a breakaway with only the goalie to beat, but St. John’s goalie Jordan Kamp made a terrific save to keep the game scoreless.
The game’s lone goal came in the 50th minute, as St. John’s Lucy Whipp crossed the ball deep into UConn’s box. The ball landed untouched, and Christina Bellero delivered a solid header off the bounce past Huskies goalie Mollie Kerrigan.
Only two minutes later, the Huskies responded with yet another near-goal, this time off a corner kick. Steck headed the ball on goal, but Kamp once again denied it, one of her six saves on the day. The Johnnies defense held fast for the last thirty minutes of play, securing the victory.
UConn outshot St. John’s 13-6, and are now 16-6-1 all-time against their former Big East rival.
“When we’re chasing in games, they’re too young to figure out what to do,” said head coach Len Tsantiris after the loss. “The talent is there. They’re just not all ready to win games.”
That changed on Sunday, as the Huskies took on the host Central Connecticut Blue Devils, and it didn’t take long. After scoring only one goal in their first four games of the season, UConn scored three times, including two from freshman Kess Elmore.
In the first minute of play, Elmore, a Liverpool, England native, took advantage of a great throw-in from junior Liane Keegans for her first career goal to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead, and she wasn’t done.
Shortly after the start of the second half, the Huskies built on their lead with two goals in rapid succession. First, Elmore scored her second goal of the match on a terrific back-post pass from junior Elena Santos. Minutes later, senior Sabrina Toole made it three, finishing a corner kick that was mishandled by the Blue Devils defense.
As encouraging as the offense was, it was a defensive play that was the highlight of the weekend. In the 77th minute, Blue Devils forward Yo Tachibana slipped through the UConn defense on a breakaway, creating a one vs. one with Huskies goalie Kerrigan. Tachibana dribbled around the attacking Kerrigan, and appeared to have an open net as she unleashed a shot towards the middle of the goal. However, Keegans, who never gave up on the play, slid in front of the goal, deflecting the ball with her outstretched leg and preserving the shutout, and the 3-0 victory for the Huskies.
The victory moves the Huskies to 1-3-1 on the season. They’ll look to keep the offense going on Thursday at home against Arkansas.