Last season was a forgettable one for Margaret Rodriguez and the UConn women’s soccer team. They went 4-14, the worst record in program history. However, they are looking to rebound this season behind an impressive recruiting class.
A pre-season poll of The American Athletic Conference’s coaches placed UConn in 7th place in the conference, which is up from their 9th place spot in last year’s race.
The Huskies added very solid pieces this recruiting season, with the addition of the High School Girls’ National Player of the Year Jessica Mazo and Monroe College standout Duda Santin.
“She is gifted in every aspect of her game.” Rodriguez said of the new No. 6 Mazo in a preview of the 2023 recruiting class done by the athletic department. “She is a center mid that can attack on the dribble, play a final pass, and can finish. In the midfield, she is relentless on both sides of the ball and is a force to be reckoned with. Jess is a class act on and off the field, and we cannot wait to see her to impact our program next fall.”
They also grabbed two wingers in Cara Jordan and Anna Salvucci, who was ranked No. 136 in the country by IMG. Jordan will spend time this season in attack and defense on the left side of the pitch, and Rodriguez has noted her “knack for scoring goals”.
Alongside Mazo in the midfield will be Emma Zaccagnini, who Rodriguez describes as “technically clean” and “efficient” on the ball. Both are Connecticut natives, with Mazo coming from Bridgeport and Zaccagnini coming to Storrs from Oakville. Giavanna DeLorenzo is the Huskies’ sole forward from this class, and she can also help out in the midfield as well.
While UConn subtracted some key defenders in now-graduated Liane Keegans, Elena Santos and Heidi Druehl, they have recruited three freshman defenders to help take their place. Among the newcomers are defenders Claire Middlebrook, Eman Karimi and Jackie Harnett. However, due to an ACL injury Karimi is likely to redshirt this season.
The team saw a successful preseason, winning both games against Quinnipiac and UMass by three goals apiece.
In the game against the Bobcats, UConn saw its first goal from Santin following a leadoff goal from Regan Schiappa, a senior this season. The Huskies grabbed their last and final goal of the match thanks to a hustle play from forward Zoë Steck that set up the goal for Vissi Rizos.
Against UMass, it was more of the same as Santin grabbed a goal just four minutes after kickoff, before UMass’ Jenny Hipp knotted it up at 1-1. Santin put away a penalty early in the second half before Kess Elmore scored on an assist from Mazo, her first goal since injuring her ACL in 2018. The freshman DeLorenzo put away the final blow in the 86th minute, putting the game to bed at a score of 4-1.
After their opener versus Providence Thursday, their first home games will be played at University of Hartford’s Al-Marzook Field, versus Fairfield and Colgate.
Then the women’s side will call Dillon Stadium home for the rest of the season. Dillion Stadium is the current home of the Hartford Athletic and New England Nightmare soccer teams.
Before their onslaught of The American Athletic Conference contests, UConn will play both Boston University and Harvard in mid-Sept. at Dillon. Once Sept. 21 comes and goes, the Huskies will play solely in conference for the remainder of the season. They will host ECU, Cincinnati, Houston, SMU and Temple this year. They will travel to play Memphis, Tulsa, USF and UCF as well.
There is little chance they will be worse than last season, as they scored the third-least goals while giving up the most goals in the conference. They made solid acquisitions and the future of UConn women’s soccer seems to be a good one, should they continue this path.
The season kicks off with a game at Providence on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will be broadcast on the Big East Digital Network.
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.