Itching to get its first conference victory since their return to the Big East, the UConn women’s soccer team (3-1-1, 1-1-1 Big East) took on a red-hot St. John’s squad (5-1, 2-1 Big East) that was looking to garner a sixth win in a row. Unfortunately for the Red Storm, UConn and Yamilee Eveillard had other plans as they returned home from a two-game road trip to defend home field on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
Immediately, the senior from Valley Stream, New York pushed the pace, registering multiple shots in the early minutes of the game off of corners and breakaways that saw her getting past the Red Storm defense with relative ease. After missing the mark with a header, Eveillard nailed a header off of a beautiful assist from sophomore midfielder Jessica Mazo mere minutes later to give the Huskies the early 1-0 lead.
Fresh off of dominating in their first five games by outscoring their opponents 13-2, St. John’s offense did not go away quietly once falling behind. Following the Eveillard score, the Red Storm had several chances at the net, but the UConn defense continued to bend, not break. An outstanding effort led by breakout star Jaqueline Harnett shut down top goal scorers Jessica Garziano and Zsani Kajan, who came into Storrs combining for seven goals and 18 shots on goal.
St. John’s seemed to have the momentum towards the end of the first half of play, continuing to put the pressure on the Husky defense, with several attempts from their midfielders and forwards that forced pressure on goalkeeper Randi Palacios, notching a save in the first half. However, once the second half was underway, Thursday afternoon belonged to the Huskies.
Refusing to take their foot off of the gas, UConn continued to pressure St. John’s with the lead, with several shots coming from exciting newcomers Lucy Cappadona and Jaydah Bedoya. Bedoya came inches from padding the Husky lead midway through the second half, but her shot careened high off of the cross bar before landing out of play. UConn was able to push the pace energized by booming kicks from Kess Elmore and Jada Konte, who put UConn in a position to pad their lead and boost their prospects of emerging victorious. While the Huskies primarily controlled the second half, there was no shortage of equalizing attempts out of the undefeated Red Storm.
Palacios had the save of the game in the 71st minute, as she met and turned away a point-blank shot that flew in off the foot of Kajan. This was the most crucial of Palacio’s five saves on the day, notching her fourth clean sheet of the season and second in a row following the draw last time out against Villanova, allowing the Huskies to hold on and continue their home success that is so crucial in the 2021 campaign.
The Huskies were able to hold on for the final 20 minutes of play, handing the Red Storm their first loss in Big East conference play and first overall after starting their season 5-0. After a winless road trip that saw UConn lose and draw, the victory for the Huskies is their first conference win in their return to the Big East, a potential early season-defining victory that will have UConn thick in the competition for a conference crown.
The Huskies looks to keep their undefeated record and momentum going at home, as they battle the Seton Hall Pirates at Morrone on Sunday at 12 p.m. For St. John’s, they will look to bounce back next time out as they continue their road trip in the nation’s capital, taking on the Georgetown Hoyas at Shaw Field on Sunday afternoon.