Hello all, and welcome back to Husky History, a new column focusing on one accomplished UConn athlete per week. Each article details the athlete’s accolades at UConn, as well as their ability to take their games to the professional level.
This week’s Husky History focuses on UConn field hockey legend Roisin Upton. Upton, a Limerick, Ireland native, grew up as the youngest of three children, with two older brothers who loved to play sports. Naturally, she followed suit, picking up Gaelic football for her local club Mungret. It wasn’t until her first year at Crescent College Comprehensive (equivalent to 7th grade in the U.S.) that Upton first picked up a field hockey stick, but she quickly fell in love with the game. The budding star played more seriously in her second year at Crescent and played for the Ireland under-16 national team in her third year.
By the time she reached the end of her Crescent career, Upton had won two Junior Cups and two Senior Cups, some of them as captain of the team. In 2011, Upton was named Junior Irish Player of the Year. It was time to look at colleges, and her mother reached out to a few schools overseas in the U.S.
“At first I was like, ‘No way, not a chance. I want to be close to my family and friends,’ and it didn’t really appeal to me at the time, but after thinking about it and realizing what was available to me and the opportunity that I had, I warmed to it,” Upton remarked. “I spoke to Duke and the University of Louisville for a while, but I just got a good vibe off Connecticut.”
Her college decision certainly paid off, as she made an immediate contribution to an already-historic field hockey program. Starting the last 17 games of her freshman season on the back line, Upton helped the Huskies have the third-best defense in the nation in terms of goals against average, with just 1.15 goals allowed per contest.
Upton’s jump in her sophomore campaign was quite a significant one, as she went from a solid contributor to collegiate superstar, netting herself 40 points —12 of which came from goals, on the season. For her efforts, Upton earned herself All-Big East First Team honors, as well as being named to the All-American Second Team. The true payoff for Upton that year was helping her team win the program’s third national championship, where she was named to the all-tournament team.
Her junior year in Storrs was just as magical. While the 2013 national champions most notably defended their title, Upton continued to earn personal awards, this time around as a team captain – typically rare amongst juniors in the program. She was named the ECAC and Big East Defensive Player of the Year and found herself a spot on the All-Big East and All-American First Teams, among plenty of other national honors.
Upton’s senior year started out fantastic, with the Huskies starting out 22-0 on the season, but the team just fell short in the national title game to Syracuse by a score of 3-1. Despite UConn missing out on their third consecutive title opportunity, Upton — complete with another year’s worth of All-Big East and All-American awards — kept her head up high.
“For me, coming over [to the U.S.], and with the way the rules work you only get four years of eligibility, so to win two national titles … really makes me think how fortunate I am,” said Upton after the conclusion of her junior year.
After her collegiate career, despite graduating with a B.A. in psychology, field hockey was and still is far from over for Upton, who went to play for the Cork Harlequins in the Women’s Irish Hockey League. In her short time there, she helped the team become runners up in the Irish Senior Cup, the league’s regular season title and the EY Champions Trophy.
In 2018, Upton went back to her roots, rejoining one of her other former squads in Catholic Institute, as they became founding members of the second division of the Women’s Irish Hockey League.
Besides the hiatus of being overseas at college, Upton has been prominent in international play for Ireland, earning 89 appearances for her country. She has totaled 17 goals as a midfielder and was a key piece of Ireland’s silver medal run in the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup. In the 2020 Olympic Games, Upton and the team placed 10th. As the 2022 Women’s Hockey World Cup set for July is fast approaching, the 28-year-old will look to help the Emerald Isle improve upon their past successes.
“Obviously to play for the senior women is the dream. I love Ireland, and love representing the country,” Upton said back in 2015. She’ll continue that dream in July, still playing the game that she loves.