Junior Kess Elmore and freshman Lucy Cappadona led the UConn women’s soccer team to a victory over Rhode Island on Sunday, Feb. 21 in the team’s season opener.
The Huskies (1-0-0) looked forward to their re-debut in the Big East on Sunday, a conference that was the home of the program from 1979-2013. Moreover, the squad was set to play their first competitive match at the new Joseph J. Morrone stadium. On the other hand, Rhode Island (0-2-0) were determined to bounce back from their loss against Providence the week prior.
Despite the Rams ambitions, Elmore had other plans, as the forward opened up the scoring a mere four minutes into the contest. Forward Yamilee Eveillard found her strike partner, who proceeded to smash it into the back of the net to give UConn the 1-0 advantage.
Although the Huskies took the lead early on in the contest, they did not get complacent. UConn’s forwards continued to stifle the Rhode Island defense, forcing a multitude of saves out of goalkeeper Teresa Morrissey. The Huskies finished the first half with a total of five shots on target, while Rhode Island failed to get a single shot on target.
With the pressure that was being put on the Rams, a second UConn goal felt like an inevitability. As a result, it came to no one’s surprise that Cappadona found the back of the net in the 31st minute. Fellow midfielder Jessica Mazo and forward Jaydah Bedoya linked up to find Cappadona, who slotted it into the net to make it 2-0 15 minutes before the half.
Regardless of the scoreline, Rhode Island was determined to fight. UConn got a shot on target seven minutes into the half, and it felt like it would be more of the same from Margaret Rodriguez’s squad. Nonetheless, despite nearly conceding, the Rams would respond shortly thereafter. Midfielder Rebecca D’Anna found space in the Huskies final third, and took a shot on goal that was blocked by the UConn defense.
Rhode Island was then able to limit UConn’s forwards from bypassing their defense, and made four straight swaps in the 68th minute with the hopes of reinventing themselves. Forward Claire Ross came on for midfielder Amanda Schafer, forward Francesca D’Agostino came on for D’Anna, forward Aysha Bentick came on for fellow forward Sam Hagerty and midfielder Kaitlyn Sengphilom came on for fellow midfielder Tess O’Connell.
However, the changes had the opposite effect on Rhode Island, due to the fact that the players had to get adjusted not only to the pace of the game, but the tactical set up of the team as well; gaps began to open up, which allowed UConn to get into the final third, with midfielders Mazo and Cappadona taking two consecutive shots on target in the 71st and 72nd minute, respectively.
Nevertheless, the Rams’ chaos at the back would be resolved, and they would get their best opportunity of the match in the 78th minute, when D’Agostino’s shot on goal forced a critical save out of Husky goalkeeper Randi Palacios to keep the score at 2-0.
From then on, it was a stalemate between both sides, with neither team able to get a clear-cut opportunity. As a result, UConn would hold on until the end to get the 2-0 victory over Rhode Island.
UConn now set their eyes on Northeastern, who they’ll host on Sunday, Feb. 28. The Huskies (0-1-1) failed to win their opening two matches, as they fell to New Hampshire and drew with UMass Lowell. Northeastern will have another shot to beat UMass Lowell and get their first victory on Thursday, Feb. 25 before their weekend bout against the Huskies.