Sometimes teams just have a hard time finding the back of the cage.
That certainly rang true for the No. 15 UConn field hockey team on Sunday, who put up 23 shots against Monmouth but only converted their first and last of the day, squeaking out a 2-1 victory and taking home both games of their opening weekend slate.
While last season’s 11-11 finish may have been the program’s worst mark since 2001, the Huskies are back and ready to prove themselves amidst a brutal gauntlet of a schedule. They started out the season on a strong note, taking home two home wins against UMass Lowell and Monmouth.
The season opener had the Huskies dominating on both ends of the field against a weaker UMass Lowell team. The first goal of the season came at the stick of senior McKenna Sergi, sending home a deflection from a Frances Carstens shot. By the end of the half, it was 1-0 UConn, with the Huskies putting up five shots to the River Hawks’ one.
In the second half, both sides showed a lot more offensive force. With rolling thunderstorms looming, each team made strong efforts to get ahead. It was the Huskies who struck again, with a Jasmijn Damman blast off of a corner in the third thanks to assists from both Carstens and Claire Jandewerth. Early in the fourth, the weather became too much to handle, forcing head referee Ken Dias to give UConn an early 2-0 victory.
The final score didn’t truly dictate the superiority the Huskies showed on Friday. UConn took 18 shots to UMass Lowell’s five while adding 13 corners, constantly putting pressure on the opposing defense while ensuring a light load for their own. Goalie and former Big East Defensive Player of the Year Cheyenne Sprecher saw an easy first game back, earning just three saves all day en route to a clean sheet.
In Sunday’s matchup with Monmouth, the Huskies ramped up the offensive attack even further, pressing through the Hawks’ defenses for 23 shots, with 17 of them on goal. Monmouth’s Philene Hazen had quite a day for herself in net, fending off 15 of those shots on goal.
The game started out well enough for UConn, as a Sergi feed knocked around in front of the cage until it was finished by Juana Garcia just over a minute into the match. Another seven shots would follow in the half to Monmouth’s zero, but at the break it was just 1-0 Huskies.
Things continued at a scoring standstill until late in the third quarter, when the Hawks capitalized on a corner. A deep shot from Annick van Lange just inside the circle was enough to sneak by Sprecher, tying the game at one apiece. After earning four corners and taking six shots within the quarter, UConn had given up the equalizer on one of the two shots taken by Monmouth in that same span.
While that kind of frustration might lead some teams to lose all of their momentum, this Husky squad refused to give in. They responded in the fourth with yet another onslaught of offense, earning five corners and putting up nine total shots, seven on net. For most of the quarter, it was more of the same, with Hazen blocking the attacks. Finally, a penalty was awarded to the Huskies with 3:10 remaining. Jandewerth was masterful in her placement in the lower right corner, but Hazen read it well, knocking the ball down. Fortunately for UConn, the ball squeezed under Hazen’s pads, finding the side of the cage to essentially put the game away in a 2-1 victory.
The Huskies are hoping to gain some needed momentum from these wins heading into their next four games – they are all against ranked opponents. Projected to finish second in the conference this year only to No. 6 Liberty, UConn boasts a handful of key returnees such as the dominant Sprecher, Big East Second Teamer Jandewerth, and Big East Freshman of the Year Sophia Ugo. Stanford graduate transfer Carstens is already making an impact too, putting up nine shots and an assist in her first two starts.
The team has earned their fair share of preseason awards as well. Ugo and Jandewerth were both named to the All-Big East Preseason team.
In head coach Paul Caddy’s third year at the helm, all of the pieces should be there to have a typical competitive season for the program. With squads like No. 4 Maryland and 2021 National Champion North Carolina on the schedule, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. The Huskies have two matchups this upcoming weekend, on the road at Rutgers and Harvard, set to take on two ranked teams.