After a weekend of the Huskies crushing their opponents by a cumulative score of 9-0, it’s time to come back to Earth with a quick road trip down to the mid-Atlantic. UConn is slated to face Big East rival Villanova on Friday and No. 8 Maryland on Sunday.
Villanova (5-8, 1-3 Big East) has had a modest season thus far, with a mix of competitive performances and absolute stinkers. Nova comes into this game ranked tied for fifth in the Big East, just a game back of last place Quinnipiac. While they have no wins against ranked teams this year, the Wildcats took both No. 22 Monmouth and No. 19 Old Dominion into overtime, where they fell just short each time. On the other side, they have been shut out by unranked teams three times. Expect this contest to either be very close or a complete blowout.
The Wildcats are led by a three-headed attack of Meghan Mitchell, Sabine de Ruijter and Caitlin van Goeverden, as they all have scored at least five goals so far this year. Sophomore Mitchell leads the team in goals and points with eight and 21, respectively. Fellow second-year de Ruijter is not far behind with seven goals herself, while junior van Goeverden leads Villanova in assists. Look out for all three in this matchup, as they are surefire difference makers in the offense.
The young talent in this lineup is evident, and if this team doesn’t give the Huskies a headache this week, they likely will in a year or two.
After the Villanova game, UConn will head off to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins (9-4, 1-3 Big Ten). The Terps have won five of their last seven outings, with their only two losses being close contests against No. 4 Northwestern and No. 1 Iowa. Maryland has had plenty of high quality wins this season, defeating six ranked teams, including No. 12 Virginia last weekend. This will definitely be the Huskies’ toughest game of the week.
As expected, Maryland ranks among the top teams in the country in goals per game and scoring margin, placing in the top 11 in both of those categories.
The Terrapins are a well-rounded offensive squad, having nine different players score at least twice on the year. It’s hard for UConn and other opponents to lock down a key player when everyone is contributing this much. The leading scorer is senior Bibi Donraadt, who tops the boards with eight goals, six assists and 22 points.
One of Maryland’s recent top performers is freshman Hope Rose, who just received Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks. She earned three points this past weekend, including a massive goal in overtime against Virginia.
This game will be a clash of the conference freshmen of the week, with Husky Sophia Ugo earning her second award for her work this past weekend. Ugo earned the first hat trick of her career on Sunday against Boston University, making her the top UConn goal scorer with six on the season.
The Huskies defense has been stellar this year, bringing the team to plenty of close games. Led by goalie and former Big East Defensive Player of the Year Cheyenne Sprecher, UConn ranks seventh in the country in shutout percentage, allowing zero goals in a game 43% of the time. That same defense will be looking to increase that value this weekend as it strives to get above a .500 winning percentage.