This Saturday against the University at Buffalo (5-1), the University of Connecticut Huskies (4-2) hope to recreate some of the magic they produced last Sunday. The team played Syracuse at home where they had gears firing on all cylinders and dominated the entire game.
Although the Huskies have some momentum, the Bulls are on a sensational four-game win streak after being blown out in their first game at West Virginia. But according to the Massey Computer Rankings, none of these wins in the streak have been particularly impressive, coming against teams ranked between No. 144 and No. 324. The Bulls stand at No. 133 in the rankings, while the Huskies are listed at No. 101.
Buffalo is led by graduate forward Marcy Barberic, who was the first player in the program’s history to be named to the NCAA All-American second team after a sensational senior season. She led the nation in shots per game last year with 2.88 and is doing even better this year with 3.17. Barberic also leads the Bulls in both goals and assists, scoring an average of once per contest. Although Buffalo might not be the strongest team the Huskies have faced all season, Barberic is certainly the best player. Her scoring and passing abilities are as good as anyone in the nation, making her a key player to watch out for throughout the match.
Another player to keep an eye out for will be senior goalkeeper Emily Kelly, who has been rock-solid all season. After giving up four goals to top-50 West Virginia, the senior has seen just four balls find the back of the net, lowering her average to just 1.38 per game. In that stretch, Kelly had a 71.4 save percentage, with clean sheets in her last three games. It will be intriguing to see if both Kelly and Barbaric can keep up on their stellar play in this tougher matchup.
For the Huskies, goalkeeping has also been a recurring question mark, with freshman MaryKate Ward and sophomore Kaitlyn Mahoney splitting the duties thus far. Mahoney has started all six games and has played just over 70 percent of the minutes, but the past two games have been evenly divided. It’s unknown whether this will continue throughout the season or if Coach Margaret Rodriguez will decide between the two.
Another interesting storyline this season has been the impact and health of junior Jessica Mazo, who came off a four-game absence and played in last game’s win. With the six-day rest, Mazo should be primed to take on a bigger role than the 59 minutes she played in the last contest, but the question is how much? Mazo was positively impactful last match but wasn’t quite her Big East All-American self, making fans hopeful that the Syracuse game was merely a rust-buster to get her ready for Buffalo and conference play.
The last thing to watch for will be Coach Rodriguez’s use of senior forward Isabelle Lynch, who has started the past two games, despite proving to be more effective when used off the bench. Does Rodriguez use Lynch as a sparkplug, or does she feel confident in the senior’s abilities to perform as a starter?
This contest should be a fun one and will likely be more entertaining than the football game, which is at the same time. The game will stream online at 1:00 p.m. on FloSports.