After 70 minutes of sloppy, heat-depleted play between UConn and Harvard, a goal was finally scored. It came from Harvard’s Margaret Purce, who led the Crimson in goals in both 2013 and 2014. The goal took the air out of Joseph J. Morrone Stadium and had the Huskies staring at their first loss of 2015.
The Huskies, however, did not quit.
In the 86th minute, Samantha McGuire equalized the score for UConn with a few smart touches in the box and a looping shot over Harvard goalkeeper Lizzie Durack.
Then the Huskies’ leading goal scorer, Rachel Hill, did what she does best: put the ball in the back of the net. With a finesse shot across her body, Hill beat a diving Durack and delivered UConn the game-winning goal in the 90th minute. The goal was Hill’s fifth of the season.
“I saw three defenders there, so I just took a touch to the side, and I knew we had to shoot, so I just went for it,” Hill said of her clutch goal.
Hill’s strike capped an exciting finish to the second half. After Purce’s goal forced the Huskies to shift into a more attacking formation, tempers flared as McGuire and Harvard’s Brooke Dickens partook in a brief shoving match near the team’s benches. Just three minutes later, McGuire put the game-tying goal into the back of the net.
“It definitely picks all our heads up, because when they scored, everyone’s heads went down,” Hill said of McGuire’s goal. “You could see; it was slower paced. When [Sam McGuire] scored that, everyone just jumps on, and is ready to go.”
The goal continued Hill’s hot scoring streak to begin the season. She leads the team with five goals in five games, and has also added two assists to the scoring tally.
Of course, Hill is no stranger to racking up the goals. She led the UConn offense in each of the last two years, with 13 goals in 2013 and 16 goals in 2014. This year, it appears she is continuing in that same direction.
“She works,” UConn head coach Len Tsantiris said of Hill’s scoring ability. “Rachel works, she’s got the skill, she anticipates. She’s got that sense and that explosion. That is very rare.”
With the win over Harvard on Sunday, the Huskies are now an unbeaten 5-0 in 2015, their best start to a season in 1998. Hill acknowledged the team’s growth from last season.
“I think in practice, we’re coming in extra focused,” Hill said. “Even off the field, we’re hanging out a lot more and getting the team chemistry there. Today, we had a little slump in the beginning, so hopefully we never come out like that again, but I think we learned from our mistakes and we’ll get better from now on.”
The Huskies will continue their home stand at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium against Army on Friday, Sept. 11.
Tyler Keating is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus, covering UConn women’s soccer. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.