In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past four months, UConn is going back to the Big East next year. As a result, Thursday’s 1-0 loss to ECU was the final American Athletic Conference opener ever for the UConn women’s soccer team. So in a sentimental fashion, let’s take a look at how the Huskies have done in the American openers during their tenure in the conference.
Overall, UConn has a 3-4 record in openers during its seven years in the AAC. UConn’s first American game ever was played on Sept. 26, 2013 against SMU at Morrone Stadium, which the Huskies won 2-1. Six years later to the day, the Huskies (4-4-1) opened an AAC schedule for the final time, this time at their temporary home Dillon Stadium, with an anticlimactic 1-0 loss to ECU (4-5-1).
In between was a 2-1 overtime win at ECU in 2014, tough 1-0 losses against USF and Cincinnati in 2015 and 2017, a dominant 4-2 win over Tulsa in 2016 and a 3-2 loss to Houston last year. So coincidentally, even though this year’s conference opener was at a unique site, the 1-0 result was very familiar.
Head coach Margaret Rodriguez said she is still taking the season one game at a time and doesn’t have her mind on the conference change, whatsoever.
“I’m not thinking of even moving conferences at all,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just taking care of this season and one game at a time. So final [AAC] opener, I wanted to win it. I think we deserved to win it.”
UConn is 2-2 at home in AAC openers and 1-2 on the road, with the only win being the overtime thriller at ECU, which featured a game-winning goal by Samantha McGuire.
The Huskies have been very competitive during their stay in the American. They have been a constant presence in the AAC Tournament, appearing in it every season except for 2018, and winning the tourney twice in 2014 and 2016.
Given the 0-1 start in conference play, it will be an uphill climb to get back into the tournament this season, but it is definitely still doable. In both 2015 and 2017, the Huskies started 0-1 and went on to finish with winning conference records and appearing in the tournament. In fact, 2015’s squad finished with the best record in the conference despite the loss in the opener.
However, it is worth noting that UConn has never won the AAC Tournament in a year it started conference play with a loss. Who knows though? There’s a first for everything.
Rodriguez said the biggest thing the team needs to improve on to make a run at the tournament this year is putting the ball in the net early in the game.
“We’re chasing the game too much,” Rodriguez said. “I’d love to be the aggressor, and I’d love to put a goal away early, and it’s there, but it just has to happen now for us.”
Although a lot of people hate UConn being in The American, it’s actually been very kind to the women’s soccer team in the past. Maybe the Huskies will be able to rally for one last magical run before riding into the sunset (a.k.a. The Big East).
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @dbars_12.