To say that Creighton had the odds stacked against them going into their Thursday, Oct. 16 bout against UConn would be an understatement. The Bluejays (6-6-2, 0-4-1 Big East) entered the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium having lost their previous six outings. Furthermore, the plethora of injuries to the Creighton squad meant that head coach Ross Paule’s starting 11 consisted of players that rarely had the opportunity to play with each other.
The Huskies (6-6-0, 2-3-0 Big East) were also not in the best of shape, as they entered the contest having just fallen to the DePaul Blue Demons by a scoreline of 1-0 on Sunday, Oct. 10. Furthermore, inconsistency plagued UConn, as they failed to win more than one consecutive game since late August, and entered Thursday’s contest with a .500 overall record.
While Creighton searched for their first conference victory of the season, UConn sought to build some regularity and return to a game over .500 with four matches left in the regular season.
UConn lined up with Kaitlyn Mahoney in goal, and a backline that consisted of defenders Chloe Landers, Evelyn Arsenault and Jackie Harnett. Sophia Webber, Lucy Cappadona, Jessica Mazo and Emma Zaccagnini made up the midfield, while the forward trio consisted of Jada Konte, Duda Santin and Jaydah Bedoya.
Keelan Terrell lined up in goal for the Bluejays, while the defence consisted of Gabby Grimaldi, Paityn Bretzer, Michaela Weist and Peighton Steffen. The midfield consisted of Hitomi Yamaue, Aida Kardovic, Kennedy Ruark, Abigail Santana and Alexis Johnson, while Renee Pountney served as the loan forward.
UConn had the better amount of chances to open up the first half. The Huskies were able to put the pressure on the Bluejays to easily slice through their midfield and defense. In the sixth minute, Bedoya was played in behind and got a shot off on goal, but Terrell was there to deny her. Then, in the eight minute, Mazo played a cross to the far post to Cappadona, who was unable to get solid contact on the ball as it flew wide.
Creighton was able to respond to the early punch in the mouth and open up UConn’s midfield and defence. In the 14th minute, Kardovic had a free header inside the box which completely missed the target. Then, in the 27th minute, Pountney was one on one with Mahoney, but the Husky goalkeeper was able to get her right ankle in the way of the shot to prevent an opening Bluejay goal.
At this point, it felt like it could be anyone’s match. It would be Creighton, however, that took the initiative to find the opener. In the 35th minute, Aida Kardovic dribbled towards the endline before she crossed it into the box; substitute Lilli Bedell would be there to connect on the header and put the Bluejays in front.
A determined Husky side came out for the second half, as they looked to find a way through Creighton’s midfield and defense. UConn would do this to great effect through the efforts of Jaydah Bedoya, who was undoubtedly the Huskies’ biggest threat in the second half. The forward made runs in behind, took on defenders and always made the right pass in the Bluejays’ final third.
Her efforts in attack would be stifled by Terrell, who put her body on the line to prevent any potential goal scoring opportunities. Furthermore, the Creighton defence did a great job at closing in on the UConn midfielders and forwards to prevent a free flowing attack. Terrell and the backline would combine in the 62nd minute to keep two goal bound shots out of the net. The Bluejay goalkeeper first made a diving stop at her near post; the rebound then fell to Konte, whose shot passed Terrell but was cleared off the line by the Creighton defence to keep the score at 1-0.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came off of a Webber cross in the 68th minute. The ball was played into the box, and Creighton was unable to clear it. Bedoya took advantage of this, and proceeded to smash it into the bottom corner to tie the contest up at one.
For the majority of the half, the Bluejays attack simply was not clicking on all cylinders. They would need to respond to the UConn goal, but it seemed as if the squad had simply run out of ideas, and would need to rely on something out of the ordinary to find the back of the net again. This moment came in the 81st minute, as the Creighton defence played a long ball in behind UConn’s backline. Mahoney came out to deal with it, but was unable to grab the ball. It deflected off her, and then it deflected off of Kardovic’s head to score the Bluejays’ second and put them nine minutes from a victory.
The Huskies knew they had to score, and score fast. Terrell was right there to stop them at every attempt, as the Creighton goalkeeper had a double save in the 84th minute, and then a diving stop in the 89th minute to prevent the equalizer.
The Bluejay stopper would prove fallible however as, with fifteen seconds left in regulation, Bedoya put in the rebound off of a Terrell save to score her second of the match and send the contest into overtime.
It was all UConn in the first period of extra time as they were in Creighton’s final third for practically the whole ten minutes. Bedoya almost got her hat trick in the 94th minute, as her shot vibrated against the crossbar to prolong the contest.
The momentum favored the Huskies, and a UConn win seemed inevitable. In the 103rd minute, the Bluejay defense were unable to deal with a cross into the box. Arsenault was there to take advantage of this, and headed the ball into the net to win it for the Huskies and once again put UConn a game over .500.
This victory means that UConn now sits in seventh in the Big East table with nine conference points. On the other hand, Creighton continues to sit in last place with one conference point.
Both squads return to action on Sunday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. Creighton will continue to search for their first conference win of the season as they host ninth place Seton Hall, while the Huskies welcome 10th place Villanova to the Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.