This Thursday, the University of Connecticut Women’s Soccer team (4-3) hope to get back to winning ways after a tough loss against Buffalo last week. The Huskies hope to live up to their lofty expectations in the Big East this year, where they were picked third in the preseason coaches’ poll, despite being inconsistent in the early goings of the season.
The St John’s Red Storm (4-2-1) was picked sixth in the same poll, but they’re hoping to increase their stock as the season progresses. The Red Storm are led by graduate student forward Zsani Kajan, who was selected as the preseason Big East offensive player of the year. A pure scorer, Kajan has lit up opposing defenses so far this year. The striker is netting goals at a torrid pace, with nine in only seven games. This includes her hat-trick at Saint Joseph’s, one of four multi-goal games she’s had this season. Kajan also adds significant value as a passer, collecting two assists so far. The Huskies will have their hands full trying to contain the Red Storm star, but if they are able to put a lid on Kajan’s scoring they’re likely to earn a win. When the graduate student scores a goal, St. John’s is 3-0-1, while when she doesn’t score, they’re 1-2-0.
Another player who could be problematic for the Huskies is redshirt junior goalkeeper Naya Lipkens. The Connecticut native will be playing just under an hour from home in a season where she has been stellar. Lipkens has allowed just eight goals on 33 shots this season, good for a 75.8 save percentage. She has collected three shutouts in the season and has 25 saves in just seven games. In the three games where Lipkens has allowed goals, though, she has seen multiple go into the back of the net. When the scoring doors open against Lipkens, they really open, with no games allowing just a single goal.
For the Huskies, the key player to watch for will be sophomore forward Jada Konte. Despite just playing 51 minutes in the loss against Buffalo, Konte led the team in both shots (3) and shots on goal. The forward has scored just twice this season and has an assist, so it would be nice to get her some momentum in this one as Big East play kicks off.
Another player to keep an eye on will be star forward Jessica Mazo. The junior has not reached expectations so far this year, largely due to an injury that saw her missing four games. Mazo started the game against Buffalo and played a promising 78 minutes but is yet to score this season and has only collected one assist in two shots on goal. The Huskies look for Mazo to have a breakout game here as she hopes to look like her All-Big East first team self.
Lastly, it will be interesting to see what type of look Coach Margaret Rodriguez goes with from a goalkeeping standpoint. Sophomore Kaitlyn Mahoney and Freshman Marykate Ward have shared these duties thus far, each playing 45 minutes in the Buffalo defeat. Mahoney has had the upper hand in minutes and save percentage thus far this season, so it will be interesting if she sees a more prominent role as the Huskies start conference competition.
The game can be streamed online on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. on Flo Sports.