The UConn women’s soccer team lost Sunday, but it was by no means the fault of goalkeeper Randi Palacios. She played out of her mind for the whole game, setting a new career high in saves with 10.
“Randi deserves this game, she was in tears at the end of it and I think right now, she saved us,” head coach Margaret Rodriguez said. “She saved us big time. She made phenomenal saves, picking up for our back line who had given up some easy Q’s. Randi is playing out of her mind, unfortunately we can’t get her the shutout she deserved.”
Palacios has been nails all season and Sunday was no different, she made multiple highlight-reel level saves to keep UConn in the game throughout. She saved five shots in each half of regulation but was unable to reach the header that gave Cincinnati the win in overtime.
“It’s huge, I think that was missing last year,” Rodriguez said on the importance of the defense having confidence in a goalie like Palacios. “I think that we had a couple seniors in our backline last year and Randi was inexperienced. So one more year under Randi’s belt, she has a bit more maturity, a little experience and a little confidence. Now she has a backline in front of her that is inexperienced and young. So, it just flips a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Palacios still deserves to be lauded for her performance. She has put her body on the line over and over for the team this season, and it started in the off-season where she ramped up her training regimen to be more reliable for the Huskies.
Last season, Palacios and the Huskies defense struggled along their way to a 4-14 finish. In her 17 games played, she allowed 37 goals and saved just above 67% of the shots she faced.
This year, she has completely flipped the script, as she has allowed just 13 through 10 games with 52 saves in total. She has also decreased her goals allowed per game by a full goal from last season, going from 2.27 down to 1.27. Her total save percentage is up 13% from last season, with a rock-solid 80%.
At this point last season, UConn had already given up 24 goals, 11 more than they have in 2019. That is a credit to stronger goalkeeper and backline play for the Huskies. The reason they have had so few wins despite allowing under 1.3 per game is that their forwards have scored just as many, and they have found it difficult to find the net recently.
She has consistently kept UConn in games, like she did Sunday, all year. Early in the season, she led UConn to positive results against Fairfield and CCSU with games of five and six saves, respectively.
Earlier in the year, Rodriguez said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in regard to Palacios playing over redshirt freshman Kelsey Kohler and so far, she has been right. Broken is the last way to describe how she has been playing.
Palacios wears the No. 30 on her back but if she keeps playing like this, she would be a worthy candidate to switch to the No. 1 jersey.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.