When the UConn women’s soccer team took the field for the second half of its game against Colgate on Sunday, there was a new energy about it.
That energy showed up on the stat sheet, as UConn (2-1-1) netted both its goals on 13 shots in the second half, almost double what Colgate (0-3-1) had in the entire game (7).
Down 1-0 at halftime, head coach Margaret Rodriguez said she knew the team had to turn up the energy in the second half.
“I think we played a good first half,” Rodriguez said. “We just lacked a little bit of energy in the final third… So the message was when we get in the final third I want us to drive at them, get them out of their shape. I want to defend higher up, and I want to go after this win.”
The Huskies certainly got the message and created pressure right away on their first possession. It wasn’t long before a cross pass by Kess Elmore to Sofia Leone resulted in the first UConn goal in the 50th minute.
“It started out through the back,” Leone said after the game. “It was a ball in to Izzy [Lynch] who laid it off to Kess [Elmore]. And then it was a cross in and I just got my foot on it, really just went for it. But it was a great cross by Kess, great buildup and total team effort.”
For Leone, a senior who originally walked onto the team, it was her first career goal. She said it was an incredible feeling to celebrate with her teammates.
The redshirt sophomore Elmore recorded her second assist of the season, increasing her team-leading point total to six.
There were a bunch of great opportunities created by the UConn offense throughout the second half, but the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal didn’t come until the 77th minute. Sophomore defender Rachel Marchini scored on a perfectly executed header from Jaqueline Harnett’s corner kick. It was Marchini’s first career goal as well.
Rodriguez said that she knew her team was going to complete the comeback.
“The difference between this team this year as opposed to last year is I never felt we were going to lose the game,” she said. “I really didn’t, and that’s just confidence in the players that we have. Whether we’re bringing subs on or we’re just rotating players, our tempo’s not going to drop, and I never felt we were going to lose the game. It’s just a matter of us finding a little bit of luck to get that second goal.”
In the first half, redshirt junior goalkeeper Randi Palacios made a spectacular save on a Colgate penalty shot. However, on the ensuing corner kick, Leah Lewis scored the only goal of the game for the Raiders. Rodriguez said the team owed Palacios a win after that.
“At halftime I told the team that they owe [Palacios] the game, because you don’t allow your keeper to make that great save and then two minutes later put a goal in,” she said.
Palacios finished the night with three saves; and the UConn defense really didn’t allow much pressure by Colgate after that first goal.
The Huskies’ offense really came together in the second half, and they finished with 20 shots, seven of them on goal. Sophomore forward Duda Santin led the team with four shots.
Sophomore defender Pato Jerzak left the game with an ankle injury in the first half and never returned. Rodriguez said it wasn’t anything serious though and she should bounce back soon.
Rodriguez also said that last year’s leading scorer, junior midfielder Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky, is on her way back from injury. She hasn’t played yet this season, but she will get reps in practice this week before possibly being cleared for Sunday’s game.
Leone said that it was great to be able to contribute a key win at home early in the season.
“I literally couldn’t describe a better feeling,” she said. “This win was really important for our team. We’re hungry and we’re climbing. It just feels good to walk away with great teammates and we’re onto tomorrow.”
Next, the Huskies will head to Providence to take on Brown Thursday night at 7 p.m. before returning home to play their first game at Dillon Stadium in Hartford on Sunday.
Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.