Field Hockey: No. 6 Huskies bounce back against tough competition

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Opening weekend didn’t start the way the Huskies are used to.

After 19 straight season-opening victories, No. 6 University of Connecticut fell to No. 4 Northwestern 4-0 on Friday. Their last opening loss came at the hands of Hofstra back in 2002. This game marks the Huskies’ first loss to the Wildcats in seven matchups, spanning as early as 1983 and as recent as 2019.

This game wasn’t particularly close, as Northwestern dominated for the full 60 minutes, having 14 shots on goal to the Huskies’ two. They also drew nine penalty corners, while UConn had just three.

The Huskies’ defense seemed to hold up the relentless Wildcat offense towards the beginning of the match, but two quick goals at the 17 and 20-minute marks by Bente Baekers and Peyton Halsey put Northwestern in the driver’s seat. They chipped away for the rest of the game, tallying two more in the second half. Redshirt senior Cheyenne Sprecher had a busy day for the Huskies, racking up seven saves to four goals allowed. Preseason all-conference senior Abby Gooderham had the only two shots on goal.

Four different players had their debut as Huskies on Friday, with freshmen Sophia Ugo and Nanne Eijkman getting the start, as well as freshman Madi Herb and transfer sophomore Madison DiPietro coming off the bench.

Northwestern had a very strong showing, especially considering they were down five starters, all competing for Team USA in the Junior Pan American Games. As far as competition goes, this team is up there with the best, as they reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament this past spring. Despite the loss, UConn should be more prepared for this tough competition in the future.

Despite such a dominating loss, UConn bounced back almost immediately in their second match of the weekend against No. 21 Miami. Two first-half goals by McKenna Sergi and Erica Solomen set the pace for the game. Despite a goal by Negrette Garcia in the 47th minute to make it a one-point contest, the Huskies were able to hang on for the win.

The game got a little too close for comfort towards the end, with the UConn defense getting a lot of work in the last few minutes. In the last 25 seconds alone, there were two Miami corners that were brilliantly defended to secure the Huskies’ first win.

While the team surely didn’t hope for a crushing loss in the first game, they showed their resilience by being a completely different team in the second match. While this team may hit some bumps in the road this season, they won’t lose their fight, which makes them a very fun team to watch, especially come postseason time.

Next weekend, the Huskies have a two-game slate, starting with their home opener on Friday evening against Rutgers. After that, they travel up to Lowell on Sunday to take on UMass Lowell. While UMass Lowell has not played a game as of the time of writing this, Rutgers is 2-0 with a convincing win over No. 12 Duke. With their opponent coming hot out of the gate, UConn is going to have a battle waiting for them on Friday.

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