When UConn needed her most, senior Svea Boker stepped up, carrying the Huskies to an eighth-straight Big East tournament championship. Boker, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, scored two goals in the span of two minutes in Sunday’s title game against Old Dominion for the program’s 18th conference title.
“I thought she was resilient,” head coach Nancy Stevens said about her star senior after the game. “We were playing a terrific team today, and I thought their tactics were really strong, so Svea had to be resilient against their excellent tackling. They stopped her most of the time, but the two she got through, she’s just deadly when you give her that opportunity.”
Boker will conclude her senior year having never lost a game in Big East tournament play, capturing both the regular season title and the tournament championship in all four seasons. But no season has been as firmly hers to lead as this one, leading the team with 20 goals and 53 points, and no moment bigger than Sunday’s conference championship.
“It’s amazing, I went eight-for-eight with all my championships, but I couldn’t have done it without the team,” Boker said. “They push me to be a better player every day and that’s why I’m successful.”
When the teams gathered for the trophy ceremony, there was little doubt as to who would claim the Most Outstanding Player award. With the pair of goals in the final and an assist in Friday’s semi, Boker had five points on the weekend, the most of any player in the tournament. Goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher had a typically outstanding weekend as well, recording shutouts in both games, but she was quick to give credit to the senior forward.
“She’s amazing, I’m glad she came on this trip with us because if not, I don’t know if we would’ve had any goals,” Sprecher joked after the game. “She’s great, she generates so much offense for us which really helps us get the ball in the back of the net and get the job done at the end of the day.”
It was an unusual and physical first half, remaining scoreless at the break. Although Old Dominion did not record a shot on goal in the half, the game felt dead-even with neither team controlling possession. There were no goals but there was plenty of physicality, with four green cards issued in the first half alone.
On the biggest stages, you need your best players to rise to the occasion, and in the 37th minute, Boker did just that. After some chaos in front of the Old Dominion goal, sophomore Maddy Wray was able to flick a pass to Boker, who backhanded a shot past the Monarch goalie. Before the ball even settled, Boker was jumping up and down, swarmed by her teammates.
She wasn’t done. Just 75 seconds later, freshman Marie Auer threaded a pass in front of the Monarch goal and, unsurprisingly, it was Boker who was in the right position to get a stick on it and find the back of the net. Although those two goals accounted for UConn’s entire offensive output, thanks to Sprecher’s stellar work in goal, it was all that was needed for the championship.
“I wanted to win no matter what,” Boker said. “We were all pretty excited, but in the end, we stayed composed and we knew we would score at the end.”
UConn’s dominance of the Big East in the last decade is simply staggering, having won eight straight Big East tournaments and 18 overall. The Huskies have not lost a single game to a Big East opponent, let alone a tournament game, since 2013. In her 30th season as head coach, Nancy Stevens continues to produce powerhouse teams.
Stevens is a three-time national champion, Boker being a member of the 2017 championship team. With the victory, UConn secured a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, meaning it’ll host next weekend’s first round matchups. This UConn team is certainly more than just a one-person show, but Boker will certainly be relied on to come through once again.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @asmor24.