Coming into their final matchup of the regular season, the UConn men’s soccer team’s spirits were low. They were sitting in second to last in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) ahead of only Tulsa and had lost 11 games on the season — their most in over 20 years. The team’s only hope of making the tournament would come by notching a win against the Golden Hurricane and by Cincinnati losing against the No. 3 UCF Knights. And that is exactly what happened.
With a team effort (and a little help from UCF) the Huskies once again earned a spot in the AAC Tournament as the sixth seed. Senior Dayonn Harris spoke about what it means to him and the team to be back for another conference tournament.
“It feels amazing,” Harris said. “We didn’t start off as well as we wanted to, but it was good to make it to the tournament and hopefully we can turn things around.”
The first step in UConn (5-11-1, 2-5-0 The American) making it to the tourney was winning against Tulsa. Both teams entered the game having disappointed in their respective seasons thus far, but the Huskies still had something to work for, and boy did they play like it. UConn racked up three goals in the first half, the most they had scored in a game since early September, with great goals coming from Harris, freshman Moussa Wade and junior captain Robin Lapert.
The Huskies did not let up there, adding three more goals in the second half en route to a dominant six-goal performance, with five different players finding the back of the net. The team allowed three goals on the night but two of those came in garbage time when both teams had cleared their benches. Head coach Ray Reid spoke on the whole team’s performance in the decisive match.
“It was a great effort by the group tonight,” Reid said. “They came to play, they were aggressive, they pressed [and] they did a great job tonight.”
Step two in the process was No. 3 UCF coming out on top against Cincinnati. The game was much closer than many people expected, even going to overtime before UCF buried the game winner. When it was announced the Knights had won, cheers rang throughout the remaining spectators at Dillon Stadium as the Huskies punched their ticket to the AAC tournament.
UConn will be coming in as the sixth seed, their lowest ranking in the tournament in over seven years, but Harris is confident in his team regardless of the opponent, calling their tourney-clinching win against Tulsa a “confidence booster,” and praising his teammates for the growth he has seen over the course of this season.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve done our best to work in training and get more connected on the field,” Harris said.
With the regular season officially finished, seeds were released for the AAC tournament, which is set to start on Nov. 9. Since the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds get byes in round one, the Huskies are scheduled to face off against No. 3 seed USF, paving the way for an interesting rematch from earlier in the season.
Last time out, USF came out on top against the Huskies 2-1 in a tightly contested matchup. It was the first conference matchup of the season for UConn, however, and with several more games under their belt as well as ample experience working as a team, it will be interesting to see if this rematch ends differently. Either way, anything is possible come playoff time, and all it takes is a little momentum to carry a team like UConn a long way.
Conner Gilson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @connergilson03.