The UConn Huskies (2-1-1, 2-1-1 Big East) and Villanova Wildcats (1-4-1, 1-4-1 Big East) finished in a draw on Sunday, Mar. 7 at the Higgins Soccer Complex. This result means that both the Huskies and Wildcats are still yet to record their first conference wins of the season.
Huskies head coach Margaret Rodriguez went into the contest with the memory of the squad’s collapse to Providence on Thursday, and how the team could not afford to crumble for a second time. On the other hand, Wildcats head coach Chris McLain looked to create some sort of consistency amongst the squad, and avoid three or four goal defeats that have been commonplace for Villanova this season.
Villanova would make a statement in the first minute of the contest when forward Chloe O’Neill’s shot on target forced a save out of UConn goalkeeper Randi Palacios. However, this would be the only major opportunity the Wildcat attack had, as the rest of the half revolved around Husky domination in the opposition’s final third.
After O’Neill’s effort, the Huskies were able to win a corner and put the pressure on the Villanova defense; soon after, forward Jada Konte and midfielder Jessica Mazo were able to get subsequent shots off that forced saves out of Wildcat goalkeeper Megan McClay. The Huskies domination continued, as a total of three shots were attempted by UConn from minutes 11 through 25, with forwards Kess Elmore, Yamilee Eveillard and Konte all taking shots on net that either forced saves out of McClay or just barely veered off target.
UConn would have two more shots before the half’s conclusion; these came from Cappadona in the 31st minute and Bedoya in the 34th minute, but their attempts did not get past McClay. Nevertheless, these continuous efforts demonstrated how fragile the Villanova defense was, and how successful the Huskies were in opening up the pitch in the final third.
Although the multiple shots on target and excellent build up play would bring some delight to Rodriguez, the reality was that the Huskies were simply too wasteful with their chances, as one of the seven shots should have found the back of the net. For this reason, while their excellent offensive display would be recognized, they would need to find the net sooner or later if they wished to leave Pennsylvania with a victory.
The second half began in a similar fashion to how the first half played out, as UConn were on the front foot 36 seconds into the half when they won a corner kick. Despite failing to convert, it once again showed the Huskies fearless nature in the attack.
UConn won a corner in the 48th minute which fell to Eveillard, who took a shot that was saved by McClay. The Husky forward would get on the end of her own rebound, but the Wildcat players were able to clear it away before the ball crossed the goal line. These opportunities were only some of many that came UConn’s way in the second half, as Rodrgiuez’s team was simply on another level. From minutes 53 to 63, the Huskies had four shots on target by midfielders Emma Zaccagnini and Jessica Mazo, along with forwards Yamilee Eveillard and Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky. All of these efforts were kept out of the net by McClay with the exception of Eveillard’s.
Villanova’s offense simply could not match the intensity of their opponent, as they failed to create opportunities in the midfield or attack in general. In fact, Villanova’s only shot of the half came in the 86th minute, four minutes before the end of regulation.
The Husky dominance would only get amplified in the final 30 minutes of the contest. Three corner kicks were won by UConn in the 64th minute alone, and the best opportunity of the match came when a Cappadona effort ricocheted off the crossbar to keep the Wildcats in the contest. A last-gasp effort by Konte was headed into the top right corner until McClay, once again, got a hand to it.
The first overtime period was quite uneventful as there was only one shot for either side, which came from Elmore in the 92nd minute. Whereas the first overtime period was quite uneventful, the second overtime period saw the Huskies get three shots off, as two came from Bedoya and one came from Mazo. Nevertheless, both were directed toward the center of the goal and did not challenge McClay.
Villanova also had an opportunity to snatch the victory when midfielder Lauren Ashman took a shot on net that was bundled up by new UConn goalkeeper Kaitlyn Mahoney, who was substituted in for Randi Palacios in the first overtime period.
Those would be the final opportunities for either side, and the match would end in a draw. Clearly, the result is quite deceiving, as action did occur throughout the majority of the match. A multitude of chances were created by the Huskies, but they were simply unable to finish them off.
Villanova will now turn their attention to Georgetown, who they’ll host on Thursday, Mar. 11 at 1 p.m. The Wildcats will look to get their second overall win of the season, and first conference win as well. On the contrary, UConn will return home to face St. John’s on Thursday, Mar. 11 at 2 p.m. The Huskies will have to make it a priority to take advantage of their opportunities if they wish to get back to winning ways.