The UConn women’s soccer team is set to open up its season against non-conference opponent Rhode Island on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.
This will be the first time the team will host a contest at its new home, the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, and it’ll hope to accompany this change in scenery with an improvement in overall performance. The Huskies finished last season with a 6-8-3 record, but failed to make both the AAC conference tournament as well as the NCAA tournament. Moreover, although they were crowned champions of the AAC in 2014 and 2016, over the past couple of years, they have failed to keep up with their conference rivals, and have been mediocre at best.
However, its return to the Big East conference after a nine year absence allows the team to begin a new chapter in a conference where it had its most success. They were crowned champions of the conference on two occasions, and were regular season champions a total of eight times spanning back to 1995. Furthermore, they made the NCAA tournament a total of 28 times.
Head coach Margaret Rodriguez will be tasked with managing a very young squad, with a total of 11 freshmen and six sophomores. Despite this, she will be aided by the veterans in the squad such as forward Kess Elmore. The redshirt junior started all 17 regular season games last season, and led the team with four goals and six assists. Right behind her is fellow forward Yamilee Eveillard. The senior started seven of the 15 games she played, and finished the season with three goals.
The center back partnership is also something that can put Rodriguez at ease. Senior Melina Couzis and sophomore Jacqueline Harnett were a solid pairing at the back last season, with both scoring one goal and assisting their teammates on two occasions.
Whereas the Huskies are set to open their season this weekend, the Rams traveled to Providence last weekend to take on the Friars in what would be their first loss of the season. Nevertheless, the scoreline can be quite deceiving; Rhode Island held Providence to only three shots in the first half, and went into the half all square. Although Providence would ultimately dominate the second half, the defensive showing by head coach Megan Jessee’s squad is something the squad needs to be wary of, as they’ll have to find a way to break down a staunch defensive block.
The Rams come into the new season having finished with a 4-9-5 record last season. Junior midfielder Rebecca D’Anna played all 16 games and was the focal point of the team, finishing the season with four goals. Junior forward Brooke Cavino proved to be deadly when given the opportunity, as she finished the 2019 season with three goals. Finally, Tali O’Leary is one of the most dynamic players on the squad; the sophomore can play either in the midfield or as a forward, and is one of the team’s main playmakers. She finished last season with two goals and one assist.
Overall, the Huskies main objective will be to stifle the opposition from the start. The Rams will come in hungry to attain their first victory, and if UConn does not make a statement in the opening minutes, they will increase the confidence of the opposing team, something they cannot afford to do. Elmore and Eveillard will look to lead their squad to victory in UConn’s long awaited return to the Big East.