Winning and UConn field hockey have become synonymous. On Sunday afternoon, the No. 3 Huskies defeated No. 18 Old Dominion to win the Big East Tournament. It was the eighth-consecutive tournament win for the Huskies and the 18th in program history.
The weekend started with a 2-0 shutout over Providence in the semifinals on Friday. The Huskies stayed consistent and shutout Old Dominion in the championship, also by a 2-0 final.
“Obviously the shutouts are an absolute team performance,” said head coach Nancy Stevens. “That’s a credit to the team. And then the individual brilliance: Maddy [Wray] on Friday with a goal and an assist and Svea [Boker] today with two goals.”
Sunday’s game was a defensive battle in the first half with each side getting looks offensively, but not finding the back of the net as each side fought through a handful of green cards. The Huskies put six shots on net and held Old Dominion to zero, albeit without their best player who exited due to injury in the first 30 minutes of play. Stevens knew what adjustments they needed to make.
“We knew defensively that we were super sound,” Stevens said. “What I wanted to do was have more dribble penetration. I felt if we could dribble penetrate, we could generate more scoring opportunities and more corners and that’s what happened.”
You don’t become the winningest head coach in Division I field hockey by chance. Six minutes into the half, Svea Boker broke the scoreless affair with a backhanded shot that rattled around the cage. Maddy Wray fed the senior co-captain, who was left open on the backside.
Roughly a minute later, Boker struck again, scoring her second goal of the afternoon and her 20th on the season. Marie Auer dribbled her way across the back line and found Boker in the middle of things for the score.
“I wanted to win no matter what,” Boker said. “I mean we were all pretty excited, but in the end we stayed composed and we knew we were going to score at the end.”
From there, it was Cheyenne Sprecher and the UConn defense that kept the Monarchs at bay. After not allowing a shot on goal in the first half, Old Dominion finished with six compared to UConn’s 12. UConn also won the penalty corner battle, 5-3, but did not capitalize on any.
Sprecher’s two shutouts on the weekend brought her season total to nine and landed her on the Big East All-Tournament Team. Sophie Hamilton, Antonia Tiedtke, Boker and Wray also joined her on the team, while Boker was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Tiedtke and Wray each scored in Friday’s win over Providence, while Wray notched an assist. Wray, Auer and Hamilton have been major contributors as underclassmen, something the team has needed all season but doesn’t always see.
“It’s amazing, they’ve done such a good job,” Boker said. “They are a big part of our team and it honestly doesn’t matter that they’re freshmen. On the team, we’re all the same.”
Now, the team awaits the NCAA Committee. Winning the conference tournament secured the Huskies an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament, but it’s up to the committee on where UConn will be seeded. Stevens thinks her squad, that has played nine ranked opponents and beaten six, has done enough to earn a top-four seed and a chance to host the first two rounds.
“I’ve told the team they’ve done everything they can,” Stevens said. “Now it’s in the hands of the committee for us to get a host site.”
The selection show aired Sunday night at 10 p.m. with the first round of the tournament slated for Friday, Nov. 15.