This weekend, the No. 3 UConn field hockey team will face off against two of UConn’s most historic rivals, contesting Villanova on the road on Friday before welcoming No. 15 Syracuse to the home turf on Sunday.
The Huskies (12-2, 4-0, Big East) are fresh off a pair of 3-0 victories against Providence and No. 10 Delaware, earning sophomore Cheyenne Sprecher NFHCA National Defensive Player of the Week honors for her shutout work in goal. No goalie in the country has a better save percentage than Sprecher (.861).
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for Big East opponent Villanova (6-6, 1-3 Big East), currently sitting in the middle of the pack of the conference. The Wildcats started strong, winning three of their first four before going on a five-game losing streak. Since, Nova has won three straight, including a dominant 8-3 victory over La Salle on Sunday.
UConn has won 36 straight games against Big East opponents, and to say that UConn shows up against Villanova is an understatement. The Huskies have won 12 straight against the Wildcats dating back to 2007. In two matchups last season, UConn throttled Villanova, 6-0 and 9-1. In the last five meetings, the Huskies have outscored the Wildcats 43-1.
Senior Lydia Sydnor has had a phenomenal season for Villanova, tallying 13 goals in 12 games. At 31 points, she’s fourth in the country in points per game. The Wildcats will need a strong showing from her and from sophomore goalkeeper Jordan McGinley, who has accumulated a lackluster .593 save percentage.
As with last weekend, Sunday’s nonconference opponent offers a greater challenge for the Huskies, though they’ll be happy to return home. Syracuse (8-4, 1-2, ACC) is ranked No. 15 nationally, and is top-10 in RPI.
The Orange had been flying under the radar for much of the season until a statement 2-1 overtime victory over then-No. 2 Duke on Sept. 27. Since then, however, Syracuse has lost two of three, albeit to some tough competition, falling to No. 1 UNC, 1-3, on Saturday.
UConn is the fourth of five-straight ranked opponents that Syracuse will face as the Orange head into the difficult stretch of ACC conference play. The Huskies have historically played well against Syracuse, leading 29-12-1 in the all-time series.
Interestingly, the Orange have actually fared better on the road (6-1) this season than at home (2-2), and will be ready for the passionate atmosphere of the Sherman Family Complex. The Huskies are a perfect 6-0 at home this season.
Though Syracuse has worked its way up the national rankings, it has struggled with getting team-wide contributions. Freshman forward Charlotte de Vries has had a stellar rookie season, leading the team by a mile with 27 points on 13 goals and one assist. Beyond her, however, no player has scored more than two goals for the Orange. If the Huskies can neutralize de Vries, they’ll have a good chance at stifling the Syracuse attack.
After No. 17 Liberty’s defeat to Old Dominion last weekend, UConn now stands alone atop the Big East standings as the Huskies try for a seventh-straight Big East regular season title. They’ll look for conference win No. 5 this weekend, as well as a ninth victory against a ranked opponent.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @asmor24.