After losing two straight road games to top teams in the country, the No. 16 Huskies aim to bounce back from their current 4-6 record in a home-and-away weekend series. On Friday night, UConn takes on Providence at home and will travel out to No. 17 Princeton for a Sunday game to close out the week.
So far, the Huskies have not been playing up to expectations, but there’s no need to sound the alarm just yet. This is a team that is facing top squads in the country on a weekly basis, with Providence being just the second opponent of the year that wasn’t ranked in the NFHCA Coaches Poll heading into the contest. Some good news? It gets somewhat easier from here, with only three currently ranked opponents – Maryland, UMass and Delaware – after this weekend.
One of the brightest spots on the team thus far has been the play of goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher. The graduate student and former Big East Defensive Player of the year has continued her dominance, keeping UConn in some very close games. Two weeks ago, she was named National Defensive Player of the Week for her help in shutting out two Top 25 teams, as well as saving four penalty shots against No. 14 Harvard.
The offense has been interesting this year, as the loss of key attacker Sophie Hamilton to the professional leagues has put pressure on the rest of the team to pick up the scoring load. In 2020, Hamilton had 19 goals, while two other Huskies had eight. This year? No player has more than three, with six different players having recorded at least one goal. Obviously, the lack of scoring is partially attributable to the talent the Huskies face every week, but it would certainly be nice to see them put up five goals on an unranked Big East foe like Providence or Georgetown.
Speaking of Providence, the Friars have started out the season a modest 5-5, beating teams like Boston University and New Hampshire, but falling to ranked teams like Harvard, UMass, and Monmouth. At the beginning of the year, the team was projected to finish fifth in the Big East.
They have a plethora of offensive help, with 10 different players earning at least one goal or assist this season. Providence is currently led by scoring leaders Niamh Gowing and Olivia Ward, who each have four goals on the season. Gowing in particular finds plenty of opportunities to shoot, taking a team-high of 29 shots thus far. Another player to watch out for is Lisa McNamara, whose seven assists lead the Friars. If UConn hopes to take home Game 1 of this weekend series, they should try to contain each of these three players.
The Princeton game should be interesting to say the least, since the Ivy League school is in a similar situation to UConn. The Tigers are 3-5 to start the year, but have had an absolutely brutal schedule, seeing just as much top talent as the Huskies. They are a sleeping giant waiting to wake up, with some heartbreaking overtime losses to then No. 5 Louisville and No. 9 Maryland. Princeton is currently on a one game losing streak, falling to No. 15 Rutgers this past weekend.
Despite their sub-.500 record, the Tigers have a positive point differential – a testament to their ability to stay in games against quality opponents. Look for this game to remain close, even if UConn manages to jump out ahead early.
Princeton is led by freshman Beth Yeager, who is atop team leaderboards in goals with eight, assists with six, and points with 22. The Greenwich, Connecticut native is a one-woman wrecking crew and will be tough to contain for sixty minutes on her home turf. Sprecher and the Husky defense will certainly have their hands full as they hope to get back to an even record of 6-6 this weekend.