No. 4 UConn field hockey hopes to continue its perfect start to the season against a pair of Massachusetts foes this weekend.
The Huskies (3-0) will travel to the Gladchuk Sports Complex in Amherst, Massachusetts to face UMass-Amherst Friday night. UConn will then return home to play Harvard Sunday afternoon.
The Huskies are rolling into Amherst off a dominating 7-2 win at home over Drexel last Sunday and a successful West Coast road trip with wins over No. 11 Stanford and Pacific to start the season.
UConn head coach Nancy Stevens said she understands the importance of playing well on the road and admitted that was part of the reason she scheduled the California trip.
“Some of our biggest games this season are on the road. That’s one of the reasons we took the trip to California, to just see how we’re going to compete on the road,” Stevens said. “We were pleased with how we were able to play, but down the line that is going to define our season.”
Friday will be UConn’s third road game of the season, and defeating UMass-Amherst will be no small task. The Minutewomen received votes in the NFHCA preseason poll after qualifying for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round to eventual national champion Syracuse. This season’s UMass team started the season slow, dropping the first two games to UNH and No. 16 Northwestern before bouncing back to defeat Columbia and UMass Lowell.
Leading the way for an experienced UMass team that has 13 seniors and juniors is junior Melanie Kreusch. The Belgium native has three goals on 13 shots in four games played.
Stevens acknowledged the history between the two programs, and said the team is excited to write another chapter. This will be the 51st meeting between the two programs, with UConn holding a 34-13-3 edge.
“UMass has always been a great interstate rivalry,” Stevens said. “They’re a very experienced team and it’s always a great matchup for us.”
The second of the weekend’s games is a Sunday home matinee for the Huskies against the Harvard Crimson.
The Crimson (2-1) started off the season with a win over Holy Cross and a loss to New Hampshire last weekend, and defeated Pacific 2-1 in double overtime Thursday night. UConn beat Pacific 5-2 during its West Coast road trip.
History has not been kind to the Crimson. Harvard holds a 4-24-2 record against the Huskies. The last game between the two programs was a 6-0 victory for UConn in 2009, but Stevens knows a lot can change in six years.
“We haven’t played Harvard in several years,” Stevens said. “But they have a new coaching staff over there now, so it should be a good matchup. We’re certainly excited.”
UConn dropped a spot from No. 3 to No. 4 in the NFHCA ranking despite starting the season 3-0. While rankings might be important to some, the Huskies are focused on the overall goal of a championship. And according to Stevens, that all comes down to road games like Friday’s at Amherst.
“The Big East Championship is at Temple. The NCAA Final Four is at Old Dominion,” explained Stevens. “If you can’t compete on the road, you won’t achieve your goals as a team. We simply have to be a good road team.”