Moments before the UConn field hockey team took the field against Michigan State in their home opener, the championship banner from last season’s victory over Maryland was unveiled on the wall behind the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex. The newest addition to the wall is joined by the other three banners from seasons past and is the third addition in the past five years.
Fittingly, senior captain Amanda Collins opened the scoring for UConn with an unassisted goal after 15 minutes and five seconds of play. Freshman back Karo Kueskes and fifth-year back Cecile Pieper joined Collins, each scoring unassisted goals of their own before halftime.
Freshman forward Maddy Wray left the game with roughly three and a half minutes prior to halftime after being hit in the head with a stick. Wray’s injury required stitches and she did not return to the game.
The Huskies came out of the gate full of energy and ready to play, seemingly in control for the game’s entirety. UConn took a 3-0 lead into halftime and outshot the Spartans 15-2.
Junior forward Svea Boker opened up the scoring in the second half at the 50:51 mark after receiving a pass from Abby Gooderham. Gooderham, a freshman midfielder, was credited with the assist.
Pieper, who celebrated her birthday Friday, scored the fifth and final goal of the game with just under five minutes to go. Junior Antonia Tiedtke was credited with the assist on the penalty corner play. This was the only penalty corner out of 12 opportunities the Huskies scored on all day.
“It was pretty awesome,” Pieper said on her two-goal game. “I think our team had a really good performance.”
In her 29th season with the Huskies, head coach Nancy Stevens was nothing but smiles after watching her team win 5-0 while outshooting MSU 27-7.
“We’re so thrilled with the incoming players filled in. We haven’t missed a beat and we have great senior leadership. So right now, it’s been good,” Stevens said after losing six starters and four all-americans from a year ago.
UConn had a quick turnaround after their home opener with the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines coming to Storrs for a Sunday matinee matchup.
“This is the kind of game you want to play early just to see where your potential weaknesses are,” Stevens said about the matchup with Michigan. “I think that it’s going to be very revealing and it’s gonna help us get ready for conference play because you really need to find out what you need to improve upon before you get into your conference play.”
If Sunday’s game revealed anything about UConn field hockey, it was how well their young defense has been playing.
Not even five minutes into the game, Abby Way, a senior forward for the Wolverines, scored an unassisted goal on Michigan’s first shot attempt. Facing their first home deficit of the season, the Huskies would go on to only allow one more shot on goal for the entire game.
“If you can hold a final four team from last year to two shots on the game, on goal, then you couldn’t be happier with the way we’re playing,” Stevens said.
UConn is starting two redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen on defense, and Stevens is impressed so far.
“For them to be playing as well and cohesively as they are now, they’re only going to get better. So we couldn’t be more pleased with their performance,” Stevens said.
Although they did not score until the second half, the Huskies offense was hard at work for the first 35 minutes of action. UConn outshot Michigan 7-2 and accumulated three penalty corners while holding Michigan to zero.
“We felt that the halftime scoreline didn’t reflect how we were playing,” Stevens said.
Abby Gooderham finally got the Huskies on the board almost 12 minutes into the second half with an unassisted goal, her second of the season.
Gooderham not only tied the game but also help put the Huskies ahead with an assist on Jessica Dembrowski’s goal with just under five and a half minutes to go. The goal was a result of one of UConn’s nine penalty corners on the day.
“Just to get shots on goal. Play well. Play as a team. And beat them, keep up the winning streak,” Gooderham said on her mindset entering the highly anticipated matchup.
Michigan pulled their goalie with a minute and five seconds left in a last minute attempt to tie the game, but to no avail. The Huskies won by a score of 2-1 while outshooting the Wolverines 20-3.
“We knew if we generated more shots and more corners that the goals would come and they did. We were very pleased with the way we played [and] moved the ball and fortunately we were rewarded with the win,” Stevens said.
UConn will play their next two contests on the road when they take on UMass on Friday, Sept. 7 and then Syracuse on Sunday, Sept. 9.
“Playing on the road is always difficult but we just went to Chicago and we did well,” Collins said. “I think it’s just remembering to always come out strong and show the other team what UConn field hockey is.”
Kevin Arnold is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.