The UConn women’s lacrosse team has a busy week ahead with a couple of road games against in-state rival Yale and conference opponent Vanderbilt.
First, the Huskies (2-11, 0-2 American) will take on the Yale Bulldogs (4-6) on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. for their final non-conference game. Then they will travel down to Nashville for a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-3, 1-1 American) on Sunday at noon.
Head coach Katie Woods said that these will be tough games, but it is more important for the team to continue to improve at this point of the season.
“Right now, we are mainly focused on the team getting better every day,” Woods said. “(Yale and Vanderbilt) are both strong and put up some solid numbers on offense so we’re going to be really focusing in on our team’s defensive play.”
For UConn, defense has definitely been the main issue this season. In their last time out on Saturday against Temple, the Huskies scored 13 goals with eight different players, but the defense let up 17 goals. They also let up 18 goals the game before that against Dartmouth. Woods said that it’s important for the defense to be better so that if they do score 13 goals again, they are in a position to win.
“We have to play better team defense and be ready to help and back each other up on the defensive end,” Woods said. “We also need to stay disciplined so that we’re not fouling our opponent and giving them additional opportunities to put the ball away.”
Yale has a good offensive attack that will be tough for the Huskies to defend. The Bulldogs average over 13 goals per game and have three different players with over 30 points this season. In comparison, UConn has just one player with over 30 points, Sydney Watson, who has 37.
Freshman Olivia Penoyer leads Yale with 43 points on 27 goals and 16 assists, closely followed by Olivia Markert with 34 points and the leading goal scorer Jill Gollob, who has 29 goals and 32 points.
Yale started off the season 4-2, but have lost their last four games to see their record fall below .500. Both the Bulldogs and the Huskies will be looking to snap losing streaks on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is well above .500. They are one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference, as they score almost 15 goals per game and hold their opponents to under 10 goals per game. That is a good recipe for a winning record.
Two out of their three losses this season have gone to teams ranked in the top 20, so the Commodores have only really lost when they are playing the best competition.
UConn will certainly have their work cut out for them against a team where almost every player has the ability to score. 18 different players have scored a goal for the Commodores this season and half of those have scored in double digits. Gabrielle Fornia leads the team with 41 points on 13 goals and 28 assists.
This season hasn’t gone UConn’s way to this point, but a couple of good games this week against quality opponents could be the start of a good final stretch. Woods said the biggest message to keep the team motivated is to keep competing.
“We play our best when we’re having fun and competing hard,” Woods said. “I think we’re making progress in several aspects of the game and that’s something that we’re recognizing as we continue on through each game.”
Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .