In Sunday’s 3-1 win over Boston University, the UConn women’s soccer team got back one of their most important players, junior midfielder Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky.
Danyko-Kulchycky, who missed the team’s first five games with a foot and ankle injury, returned to action and made her presence felt on Sunday. She logged 34 minutes of playing time, took two shots and even recorded an assist in her first game back.
When she checked in for the first time, she got a lot of support and applause from both the crowd and her team. She said it felt awesome to be back on the field with her teammates.
“It felt amazing,” she said after the game. “I love this team. They were all so happy for me. They were so fired up, and when I went in they were all screaming for me. It just felt so good to be back on the field after so long, and I felt awesome out there.”
Head coach Margaret Rodriguez said it was great to see Danyko-Kulchycky back in a game situation.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “DK is a talented kid… It’s just getting her out there, getting confidence, getting some fitness. She’s clearly at another level than some players. She’s got some savviness. She can put the ball in the net and that’s what we need.”
Last season, Danyko-Kulchycky was the best player for the Huskies. She led the team with eight goals and 17 points. After taking a fall in a spring practice, she discovered that she had a slew of problems in her foot and ankle area, including torn ligaments, missing cartilage and tendonitis.
Starting the season with DK on the bench was tough both on the team and on her. She said the process to get back on the field was very trying. She had to rehab every day with the trainer to stay in shape, and she tried to keep her spirits high throughout the process.
Rodriguez said the whole team was really pulling for her to come back from her injury and be successful.
“Our mantra is just to champion each other,” she said. “She’s been frustrated with her injuries. She’s been trying to work it back, so for her to get on the field, the whole team was just rooting for her to find her some success. That sums up the team right there.”
Danyko-Kulchycky admitted that she was tired and rusty at first, but by her second shift she felt more confident.
“I was definitely winded,” she said. “I was definitely a little tired and more out of shape than I thought I would be. But second half I came on just a lot more confident and shook that rust off. My touches were good, and confidence is completely back right now.”
It was during that second half that she began to look like the DK of old. She created space using her crossovers and took a really nice shot that almost went in. She was very aggressive both on and off the ball and seemed to always be in the right place.
Danyko-Kulchycky tallied her first point of the year with an assist on the game-sealing third UConn goal. She connected with redshirt sophomore Kess Elmore, who then passed it to senior Regan Schiappa for her first goal of the season. DK almost connected with Schiappa for another assist earlier in the half, but the BU goalie made a nice save.
Now that she is back, Danyko-Kulchycky said she is very excited for the rest of the season.
“Catching dubs,” she responded when asked what she is most looking forward to. “Scoring goals. Game one out of the way. I just feel so confident I’m going to be scoring goals all season. This is just the beginning for this team.”
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.