Another weekend, another two Top 25 matchups for the UConn field hockey team.
After a slow 2-4 start to the season, the No. 15 Huskies hit their stride last weekend, going 2-0 against two ranked opponents at home — including Big East rival Old Dominion. This slow start can partly be attributed to a tough schedule, which had the Huskies playing seven of their eight games against ranked teams.
This squad is finally turning a corner, however, and will look to continue its winning streak against No. 13 Liberty this Friday and No. 7 North Carolina this Sunday, both on the road.
The Flames (5-2) are on a two game winning streak as well, beating Big East members Georgetown and William and Mary by a cumulative score of 7-1. Their only losses thus far occurred in back-to-back games, when Liberty fell to No. 5 Northwestern and No. 6 Louisville a few weeks ago. Besides these two squads, the Flames faced only one other ranked opponent: No. 25 Stanford, whom they easily handled 5-1 early in the year. They can take care of lesser programs, but a quality Top 15 win has yet to be seen.
Liberty is led by Jill Bolton and Jodie Conolly, who were each named to the Big East honor roll this past week. Bolton tallied a goal in each of the Flames’ past two games, as well as an assist against William and Mary. Besides adding a goal and an assist this past weekend herself, Conolly played a big role in the defense’s successful weekend as well. If UConn hopes to continue their recent hot streak, they will need to contain these two impact players on Friday.
The defending national champion Tar Heels (4-3) have taken a little fall from grace, dropping three games early on in the year. The upside? All three of those teams (Iowa, Michigan, and St. Joseph’s) are ranked in the top eight in the country, with Michigan and Iowa holding the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. They are undoubtedly still a skilled team, and not one that the Huskies should underestimate. Their biggest win of the season came a few weeks ago, when UNC took down then No. 13 Princeton by a score of 4-1, its lowest margin of victory so far this year. When this team wins, it obliterates its opponent. One key thing to note, however, is that this team has zero shutouts on the year.
North Carolina’s offense is spearheaded by Erin Matson, the national leader in goals per game. The 2020 All-American leads the Tar Heels in goals with 10, assists with six, and points with 26 thus far. Including what Matson brings to the table, UNC boasts a third-best scoring average per game, putting an average of 4.57 balls in the back of the net each contest. Expect Sunday’s matchup to be a high scoring affair.
The Huskies are currently led by freshman Sophia Ugo, whose three goals, one assist
, and seven points are the most on the team. She came especially close to scoring in both games this weekend , and hopes to add a few on the road. Preseason all-conference player Abby Gooderham has taken the most shots of any Husky so far but has yet to convert. She is definitely very talented, and it is only a matter of time until she notches her first goal of the season.
UConn goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher has been nothing but dominant all year, and her recent efforts against ODU and Harvard have earned her extra recognition as the Big East Defensive Player of the Week. Besides having two shutout performances against ranked teams and four saves in each game, Sprecher was also a brick wall in Sunday’s penalty shootout. In five attempts on net, she stopped four, leading the Huskies to their biggest win of the season thus far. With a plethora of elite scorers on the schedule’s horizon, Sprecher will need to keep up her dominance if UConn has any shot at sweeping its second weekend in a row.