Save for a 30-second period in Friday’s game against No. 22 Old Dominion, the UConn field hockey team looked practically unbeatable this weekend. The Huskies, ranked No. 3 in the country, ran away with both contests, defeating Old Dominion 6-2 on Friday and 4-0 against Boston University on Sunday.
“Trust me, when you’re going to play the No. 3 team in the country, you show up,” head coach Nancy Stevens said after Sunday’s win. “They’re going to give you their very best effort, but we’re good enough to withstand that pressure.”
UConn (9-1, 2-0 Big East) remains undefeated at home (4-0) and in conference play, having won five straight games since its sole loss to No. 9 Michigan earlier this month. Goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher now has five shutouts this season, the most in the country.
The stars of the weekend were senior Svea Boker and freshman Sophie Hamilton. Coming off a pair of performances which earned Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors, Boker had an even more impressive weekend this time around, scoring two goals in each game. With seven goals in the last four games, Boker has solidified what many in Storrs already knew — that she’s one of the best players in the country.
“Great players make everyone around them better, so often her focus is making her teammates better,” Stevens said. “But when you’re a striker, you also understand that we need you to put the ball in the back of the net. The past two weekends, that’s been a focus for her, and we’ve seen the results.”
Hamilton had a phenomenal weekend as well, notching three assists on Friday before doing some damage of her own on Sunday, scoring a pair of goals against BU. The Bruton, England native continues to have an immediate impact as a freshman, trailing only Boker in goals scored this season.
“Sophie’s coming off playing in the U21 European championships, so she’s played at the top level even though she’s only 18,” Stevens said. “She plays with a maturity beyond her years. She’s a great passer, helping to quarterback the team, and she can also finish, as seen with her two goals today.”
In each of the games this weekend, the teams played to a scoreless first quarter before an offensive explosion. In Friday’s game against No. 22 Old Dominion (5-3, 1-1 Big East), the Huskies’ second conference foe of the season, it took UConn some time to figure out the Monarchs’ swarming defense. Once it was solved, it was (mostly) all UConn from there.
Sophomores Maddy Vray and Abby Gooderham each scored in the second quarter to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead at the break, and freshman Claire Jandewerth added her first collegiate goal in the third to take a three-goal lead. The Huskies appeared to be in firm control.
That is, until things unraveled towards the end of the third quarter. The Monarchs got on the scoreboard at 41:28, and not even a minute later, tacked on a second to pull within one. All of a sudden, Old Dominion was the energetic, confident team with all the momentum.
“Momentum shifted, we lost it completely in the third quarter,” Boker said. “I just felt I had to score so I lifted the team up, and from there the whole team took it from there.”
It was at this moment that Boker simply took over, getting out on a two-on-two fast break and taking it herself, unleashing a fantastic finish into the goal with just 13 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Monarchs were thoroughly demoralized, UConn had a two-goal advantage and the momentum back on its side.
“Great players have a sense of what’s needed now, and she understands in this moment of the game, ‘my team needs this from me,’” Stevens said about that magical goal on Friday. “An individual moment of brilliance, and she has the courage to be that person.”
The Huskies pulled away from there, as Boker tacked on a second in the fourth and freshman Marie Auer scored her fifth of the season to come away with a 6-2 victory.
Sunday’s game against BU (3-5) was the same result with less drama, as the Huskies rolled to a 4-0 win at the Sherman Family Sports Complex. Hamilton and Boker accounted for all the team’s offensive output, each scoring twice. After each game, however, both players were quick to give all the credit to their teammates.
“It’s a really good experience, but I’m thankful for the other teammates that allow me to get the assists and the goals, because I wouldn’t get them if they hadn’t passed me the ball,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a difficult [transition to the U.S.], but everyone’s so welcoming and it’s such a good standard that helps me keep on improving, and I’m loving it.”
“Just enjoy what you do, and have a great team that backs you up in every moment,” Boker said on the key to her personal success. “I wouldn’t be as good as I am if I didn’t have the team that I have.”
Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Philadelphia to take on Temple (4-4, 0-2), who are currently winless in conference play. UConn has won 12 straight matchups against the Owls dating back to 1994.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @asmor24.