It was a tale of two stories for the No. 3 UConn field hockey team this weekend. On Friday, the Huskies dominated conference foe Villanova on the road before a heartbreaking home loss to No. 15 Syracuse in a shootout Sunday afternoon.
On paper, 13 penalty corners and 11 shots on net, 24 in total, should lead to an overwhelming win. Not for UConn, as Syracuse pushed the match through two overtime periods before winning in the shootout, two scores to none.
“Statistically, we couldn’t have done much better,” head coach Nancy Stevens said. “Both teams played well. I though we really got traction in the second half and certainly in overtime.”
The first half was a quiet one for both sides as each defense dominated the field. Heading into halftime, the Huskies (13-3, 5-0 Big East) had just two shots to Syracuse’s three. Neither side was awarded a penalty corner until UConn got its first one late in the third period.
UConn came out firing in the second half, taking six shots and three on net in the third period. Syracuse’s Sarah Sinck, who is also the goalkeeper on the Dutch national team, kept the Huskies off the board. She made save after save to keep the Orange (9-5, 1-3 ACC) even with UConn. Her biggest save came in the first overtime on a UConn corner. The shot was rifled in from the top of the circle, but Sinck was able to stick her left leg out in time to tally one of her three saves in the period.
“When we did the game plan the number one line was: You must be able to solve this goalkeeper,” Stevens said. “And we were unable today to solve their goalkeeper.”
The Huskies had their share of opportunities between a baker’s dozen penalty corners (seven in overtime) and triple the amount of shots of the Orange. In overtime alone, the Huskies put up 11 shots to just three from Syracuse. A couple shots were just inches away from going in, like a Svea Boker shot that hit the right post, but it ultimately came down to execution.
“Clearly, for us, the message is: We have to continue to work on our penalty corners,” Stevens said. “Corner execution was poor today and we’ll do better.”
Stevens said she was “disappointed” with her team’s performance in the shootout. UConn’s first two shooters, Boker and Sophie Hamilton, could not score, letting the Orange get out to a quick 2-0 advantage. Cheyenne Sprecher kept the Huskies in it with a save on the third attempt, one of her five on the day, but it was too little too late as no Husky could score.
Though it was a frustrating way to spend a Sunday afternoon, Stevens said her team could walk away with at least one major accomplishment.
“That’s the frustrating thing, isn’t it? To dominate statistically and to get the shutout and still lose,” Stevens said. “We have to be very proud of the fact that we didn’t give up a single defensive corner, which is a huge accomplishment.
UConn’s penalty corner execution was lacking on Sunday, but dominated their attack in Friday’s win over Villanova. The Huskies’ 7-0 win was their third shutout in a row, their 37th in a row over a conference opponent and their 13th straight against the Wildcats.
“We scored on six corners, so the corner execution was flawless,” Stevens said. “We probably needed one of those to work today, but it didn’t. But that’s sport, isn’t it? One game you’re just at the very top of your game in a certain category and then the next game it’s not quite there for you.”
The Huskies got out to an early lead over Villanova (6-8, 1-4 Big East) thanks to their three starting backs. Kourtney Kennedy, with a little help from Hamilton and Claire Jandewerth, got UConn on the board first with her third goal of the year. 50 seconds later, Antonia Tiedtke notched a goal of her own on Hamilton’s second assist and a helping hand from Abby Gooderham. Lindsey Dickinson topped off the first half scoring with an unassisted goal at 13:55.
The game remained scoreless from that point until the fourth quarter, in part, to UConn not allowing a Villanova shot in the second half. The Huskies maintained a 18-5 advantage in shots (15-2 on net), and lead 11-5 in penalty corners. Sprecher was sparsely needed, making just two saves in the contest.
UConn got back on the board in the final frame via two penalty corners with Gooderham scoring on the first and Jandewerth scoring on the second. Gooderham’s score put her in a tie with Hamilton for the second most on the team with seven.
A couple minutes later, Boker scored with an assist from Kennedy, extending the senior captain’s lead in goals to 13. Jessica Dembrowski tacked on the seventh and final score at the 51:35 mark on Gooderham’s second assist and Hamilton’s third on the day. Hamilton, a freshman, has the second most assists on the team with 11, trailing on Tiedtke by one.
Next time out, the Huskies will travel to take on Big East competitor Liberty, with a chance to secure a share of the Big East regular season title. The game is slated for a noon start on Saturday.
Kevin Arnold is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @karnold98.