UConn women’s soccer (2-3-1) might have been at home at Morrone Stadium against the talented visiting Arkansas Razorbacks (4-3), but make no mistake, they stole victory Thursday night.
A 2-1 victory in overtime gave the Huskies their second win of the season and it came against a premier opponent who mostly outplayed them.
Arkansas outshot the Huskies 25-8 and outnumbered them on corner kicks 15-4.
The first good chance came for Arkansas a mere five minutes in. Senior midfielder Katie Kienstra used her powerful somersault throw from the far sideline to place a ball in the box, a recurring event in the game, where senior Jessi Hartzler put a shot on from the center of the box. UConn goalkeeper Mollie Kerrigan turned it away with confidence for the game's first save.
The flow of the game comfortably fell into a back and forth of attack and defend with the Huskies owning the slightest of edges in spending time on the attack earlier before the Razorbacks swung momentum their way.
19 minutes in led to a little chippiness and a little action. Junior defender Elena Santos brought the ball up the near sideline near the midline where physical defense by an Arkansas defender drew a free kick. Despite the referee’s whistle, Santos deliberately kept moving long enough to collide with an incoming Arkansas defender, landing a blow to her face and earning herself a yellow card.
Still, the Huskies managed to reverse sides across the field near the top of the box where junior forward Vivien Beil put a shot on just a tad high, nipping the crossbar on its way out of play.
Despite an uptick in Razorback pressure, UConn would find the first goal with nine minutes left in the half.
Sophomore forward Alexa Casimiro took a pass from junior defender Liane Keegans just inside the box on the far side and succinctly turned and lofted a shot that was too high for a leaping outstretched Rachel Harris, sailing gracefully into the top of the net.
It was her first goal of the season.
“Right place, right time; Keegs made a great pass to me and it just happened,” said Casimiro.
Arkansas was hardly demoralized, controlling the action for the rest of half and keeping possession around the UConn 18, culminating in a shot from in deep by junior midfielder Reid Sibley.
But Kerrigan was there for the save, part of her four in the half.
Hartzler would also get a good, quick turnaround shot off from the top of the box off a free kick from midfield but missed high.
Arkansas picked up how they left off immediately, generating action in front of the UConn net and a Reece Christopherson shot that Kerrigan saved.
Kerrigan would make another impressive diving save on a Stefani Doyle shot after a corner sent in by Taylor Malham.
Arkansas would soon put in the equalizer and it came from a familiar source. Freshman Parker Goins scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season from a deep Razorback free kick.
Malhamlater had a near point-blank shot she put on after an Arkansas corner kick, which wouldn't stop coming.
In the second half alone, the Razorbacks outshot the Huskies 15-1 and had eight corner kicks to UConn’s one.
The Huskies nearly had something going when Santos found herself in open space after a long pass but it was not meant to be as she was whistled for being offsides.
After that it was back to business for Arkansas as they largely controlled the attack again, including a dribbler misread by Kerrigan that nudged the post and stayed in play.
With seven minutes remaining, another throw deep into the box allowed Goins, with her back to the goal, to flick a header on Kerrigan who made the stop.
UConn broke free off that save and actually would force the issue for a couple minutes, generating their only shot of the half from Beil which was from far out and way high.
A UConn foul with three minutes remaining would give Arkansas a free kick from a great position, leading to a pair of dangerous chances. Even to the final seconds, the Razorbacks forced Kerrigan to make plays.
Overtime’s start was much of the same as Arkansas put a shot on the crossbar a minute into the first portion. UConn bounced back, keeping the ball in the Razorback’s half much of the time thereafter.
With that counter movement, freshman Kess Elmore did her thing.
UConn moved the ball from the far side to the middle where Beil had a Razorback defender in isolation and a streaking Elmore up the near side. A short pass found Elmore who acutely pushed a shot past a charging Harris for the game-winner.
It was her third of the season after she scored two against CCSU in UConn’s last game.
“Well in England we don’t have a Golden Goal so it was a surreal experience where the game just grounds to a halt but, yeah I really enjoyed (it),” Elmore said of her heroics.
According to head coach Len Tsantiris, Elmore’s goal was all part of the plan.
“We waited. That’s what we talked about. That’s our opportunity. Make sure we get the ball out wide if we can and connect. That’s it,” Tsantiris said.
On exploiting the Razorback defense, “they (Arkansas) just go where the ball is...That happens if you throw numbers forward,” Tsantiris said.
The Huskies will next be in action on Sunday as they travel to the Big Apple to take on the Fordham Rams (2-1-2). It’s the return trip from last year when UConn defeated them 4-1 in Storrs.
Fordham and UConn share the experience of losing to St. John’s this season. The Rams fell in an exhibition to the Red Storm on Aug. 9, 1-0, while the Huskies suffered an identical fate on Sept. 1 as part of the CCSU tournament.
The Rams are averaging a goal per game prior to their Sept. 8 game against Hofstra and have had their last two games result in double-overtime draws.
“We got to keep going and correct things. I think we can keep the ball better but slowly we’re learning,” Tsantiris said.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.