UConn women’s soccer preview: Huskies get set to host Creighton and Villanova at Morrone

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Head coach Margaret Rodriguez and her squad get set to welcome both Creighton and Villanova to the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The Blue Jays (6-6-2, 0-4-1 Big East) storm into Storrs in search of their first conference win of the season, while the Wildcats (7-7-0, 1-5-0 Big East) look to win two consecutive games for the first time since the start of the season.  

Creighton has no doubt had a tough start to their Big East campaign, as, in four of their past five conference games, the Blue Jays have had to go up against the top five teams in the Big East table (#25 Georgetown, Providence, Marquette, and Xavier).  

Creighton’s first run came against the nationally ranked Hoyas, who they were able to hold to a 1-1 draw in what is a great result, all things considered. However, things would soon take a turn for the worst; the Blue Jays would then lose their next three consecutive matches against Providence, Marquette and Xavier, respectively. Furthermore, Ross Paule’s team would then fall to Villanova to make it four losses out of five in conference play.  

While Creighton’s recent form has been poor, they still have a quality defense that should be respected. The Blue Jay backline has only conceded more than one goal on two occasions this season: to Xavier and Villanova. As a result, the Husky forwards will most certainly be frustrated by Creighton’s group of strong defenders. Moreover, the midfield must also be given credit as they’ve most certainly stifled any sort of creativity that the opposition has thrown at them. 

Creigton were led into the contest by midfielders Abigail Santana, Ansley Atkinson and Cristina Garriga. Santana leads the team in goals, having scored seven of the team’s 17 total goals this season. Atkinson has also been a key player for Creighton; she leads the team in assists with nine and has shown to be the squad’s main creative outlet. Finally, in the eight games Garriga has participated in, she has bagged three goals and garnered one assist. Her “all-around” nature is something that UConn will most certainly have to watch out for, as she can find the back of the net, or play her teammates in behind the defense.  

Switching gears to the Huskies, Rodriguez’ squad sits in eight in the Big East table, three positions above the Blue Jays (who sit in last place). UConn also has an overall record of .500, and is coming off of a 1-0 loss to DePaul on Sunday, Oct. 10.  

The Huskies have struggled to stay consistent since early September. The last time UConn won more than one consecutive match came in late August; moreover, the team has only won two of their first five Big East matchups with the victories coming against Seton Hall and Marquette, respectively.  

While the prognosis looks grim, one thing that the Huskies can rely on is their attack as they’ve scored more than one goal in all of their victories this season. The forward partnership of Jaydah Bedoya, Jada Konte and Duda Santin can most certainly lift the Huskies out of the most grim of situations. Bedoya has three goals and two assists on the season while Konte has three goals along with one assist to her name. Moreover, Santin has two goals and two assists in the four games she has started.  

Chloe Landers, Jackie Harnett and Evelyn Arsenault will have to stand firm at the back as they’ll be coming up against a side that has failed to score in their four previous outings.  

Also, the UConn midfield made up of Sofia Weber, Lucy Cappadona, Jessica Mazo and Emma Zaccagnini will have to combine and move the ball quickly from side to side in order to create gaps in the Blue Jay defense. If this is not done, it will be very difficult to find a way through the six defenders that Creighton starts at the back.  

All in all, this contest will be won in the middle of the park. Whoever can achieve control of the midfield will be able to swing the ball from either ends of the pitch to create goal scoring opportunities for their respective side.  

In the second game of the week’s slate, the Huskies will stay at home and take on Villanova in what looks to be one of the most winnable games left on the schedule. The Wildcats are 7-7 overall and just 1-5 in conference, with their only win coming against last place Creighton. Massey’s Computer Rankings lists Villanova as the 137th best team while UConn sits at 128 and predicts the game to go 2-1 in the Huskies favor.  

After losing their previous six games, Villanova just picked up their first win in exactly four weeks against the Blue Jays. The Wildcats are led by star senior forward Chloe O’Neill who has accounted for 21 of the team’s 67 points in the form of eight goals and five assists. O’Neill has done a great job shouldering the offensive load even though the rest of the team has done little to help out. It is important to note, however, that 17 of these 21 points came in non-conference play before the team dropped six straight contests. Since then, she and the team’s production has been stagnant, although she did score in the Creighton win. The team runs through O’Neill, so when picking a player to focus on, the choice for coach Margaret Rodriguez will be easy. 

Villanova senior goalkeeper Megan McClay has had a frustrating final campaign too, not recording a clean sheet since September 5th against Cornell. In that span, McClay has allowed 21 goals in just nine contests, including four games where she allowed three or more goals. This is largely thanks to the Wildcats’ porous defense, which has had a lot of trouble keeping shots away from the net.  

McClay has faced 206 shots so far this season, which is likely not how many she would like to be seeing. 

The key to victory in this game will just be to bottle up O’Neill to prevent offensive efficiency from the Wildcats and to get shots on goal. UConn has also had trouble scoring lately, but with their attack primed for a breakout game, the time is now to put points on the board. The goal here is not to win the conference anymore but instead to get some nice momentum going for the young players into next season. Look for freshmen Joyce Ryder, Abbey Jones and Sophie McCarthy to be active here and try to net each of their second career goals. This is a very winnable game and a great one for the team to get some experience. 

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