The UConn women’s soccer team played one of its hardest-fought games of the season Thursday in Tampa, but just came up short to the USF Bulls.
A goal by Emma Davies in the 89th minute sent USF (9-3, 4-1 The American) to a huge conference win, which puts them in sole possession of second place in the standings. With this loss, the Huskies (6-8-1, 2-5 The American) have an uphill battle to get into the conference tournament with just two games remaining.
After a scoreless first half that included uncultivated opportunities for both teams, the second half started with a bang. Forty-eight seconds into the half, junior Yamilee Eveillard gave UConn the lead with her third goal of the season on a perfect pass from the corner by redshirt sophomore Kess Elmore. It was Elmore’s sixth assist of the season.
The 1-0 UConn lead provided by the goal was short-lived, however. Less than two minutes later, Evelyne Viens ran down the field and netted her 13th goal of the season to tie the game at one. It was the 61st goal of her career, which tied the AAC record set by former UConn standout Rachel Hill. UConn was able to contain Viens in the first half by keeping three defenders almost glued to her at all times, but this time she was able to outrun the defense and get open for the goal.
The Bulls outshot the Huskies by a crazy margin of 25-5, but the discrepancy didn’t seem that drastic on the field. Many of USF’s shots were harmless pokes from the outside that were either blocked or scooped up easily by Randi Palacios.
Palacios finished officially with nine saves, but the scorekeeper didn’t account for her toughest save of the night, a point-blank rocket from Sydny Nasello in the 59th minute that Palacios deflected out of play. The 10 saves would have tied a career-high for Palacios, set in a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati earlier this season.
Based on opportunities, this did not look like a 2-1 game. USF had countless opportunities in the box but often shot the ball too high. On a corner kick in the 87th minute, Fanny Pelletier-Laroche had a chance for a header goal, but it went straight off the crossbar. At that point, it looked like the game was headed to overtime, but Davies had other plans.
The Huskies may have gotten off 20 fewer shots, but they, too, had a bunch of opportunities. In the first half, Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky set up Sofia Leone in the box with a golden opportunity for a goal, but Sydney Martinez made the tough save to keep the game scoreless. Later in the 84th minute, Elmore had the chance for a goal of her own, but the USF defense disrupted her just enough and the ball went out of bounds.
In the end, this will be looked at as a missed opportunity to steal a game from one of the top teams in the conference. But at the very least, the Huskies showed they can hold their own on the field with anyone.
UConn will look to carry that spirit up the road to Orlando, where it will take on another tough opponent in No. 21 UCF Sunday at 1 p.m. UCF played Temple to a 0-0 tie Thursday, moving its record to 3-1-1 in AAC play and 8-2-3 overall.
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @dbars_12.