So close, yet so far.
This simple phrase can be used to describe the field hockey team’s efforts in their 2-1 defeat to No. 3 Boston College on Friday night.
The No. 12 Huskies showed up to play, immediately putting pressure on the Eagles’ defense. In the third minute, they forced a penalty corner, which graduate student Jessica Dembrowski took in. She fed the ball to Maddy Wray, who had her shot blocked by BC’s Jonna Kennedy. Off of the rebound, freshman Sophia Ugo had a beautiful goal, picking the ball off the ground with her stick and, with the ball high above her head, snuck it low by Kennedy in the near post.
Boston College was quick to retaliate, however. They took seven shots in the rest of the quarter, capped off by a goal from Jaime Natale in the 14th minute. She made a nice move to get by UConn defender Aiya Young, then took a shot from barely inside the shooting circle that got by keeper Cheyenne Sprecher.
The next three quarters were an absolute dog(eagle)fight, with both teams getting plenty of opportunities to score. With five minutes left in the game, it was BC points leader Milagros Arteta who put the ball in the top net, sending the Huskies packing while the Eagles improved to 5-0 for the first time in ten years.
Ugo has been a bright spot so far this year for UConn, scoring her third career goal in this contest. This also marks the third consecutive game with a goal for her. Her two last week were enough to earn her Big East Freshman of the Week honors, so look for her name when the Big East Weekly Awards come out again in a few days.
Sprecher had a solid day in-net for the Huskies, saving nine goals while allowing two. Her nine saves were the most she had made since the team’s season opener against Northwestern.
That is, until Sunday, when Sprecher saved 10 shots on-goal in UConn’s 5-3 loss to No. 16 Syracuse.
The Orange were hot out of the gate, striking within the first five minutes of the game. Syracuse was able to take seven shots in the first quarter, while the Huskies couldn’t get anything going, not getting a shot off.
Things started to turn around in the second quarter for UConn, as an early penalty corner fed the ball to Claire Jandewerth, who promptly put it in the back of the net to make it a 1-1 game. Syracuse was quick with a response, however, with an unassisted strike from SJ Quigley to retake the lead just minutes later. This would start a run of four unassisted goals for the Orange, leading all the way into the fourth quarter.
Despite being down four points with less than a quarter to go, the Huskies never lost their fight. They earned two penalty corners with five minutes remaining and capitalized on them both, with Dembrowski notching her first couple goals of the season. Although coming in garbage time, the relentlessness of the UConn offense is easily the biggest positive on the day.
The Huskies only earned three penalty corners on Sunday, but they sure made good use of them, scoring on all three. While this is clearly a good sign, the negative is that they had very few real opportunities outside of the corners. Besides the goals, they had just three shots on-target during the rest of the 60 minute match. If they look to win against other Top 25 teams, they’re going to need to create more chances for themselves.
These losses mark UConn’s third and fourth on the year, all to ranked teams. Their two wins have come against unranked UMass Lowell and No. 21 Miami.
The No. 12 Huskies now fall to 2-4 on the year as they start to transition into conference play. With these two losses, it’s hard to see a scenario in which they stay (at least highly ranked) in the Top 25. I’m projecting them to be a team in the low 20s, or perhaps even on the outside looking in after these two tough losses.
The team looks to turn their luck around next weekend with a pair of home games against 2020 Big East runner-up Old Dominion, as well as out of conference foe Harvard.