The Huskies have been going gangbusters since the beginning of the season, and recent times have not shown any signs of them slowing down. It seems like they’ve been running over opponents lately, with their last rival, No. 16 (now No. 17) William & Mary, being no exception in a 3-1 victory for the Huskies in Williamsburg, Virginia. However, they do have one last stop on their tour of ranked teams: No. 16 Liberty University, right at home on Friday at 2 p.m.
As mentioned previously, UConn has had a great season to date, holding a 6-1 overall record while winning their only in-conference Big East game last week against then-No. 14 Old Dominion. Their four ranked wins are somehow only enough to barely get them into the top 10, placing them at No. 9 in the country according to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll. Despite the apparent lack of national respect for this team, the Huskies truly are good, and they have the stats to prove it. They boast an impressive average goal differential at 1.5, showing that they not only convert their chances, but also have a great last line of defense in the form of their goalie, Cheyenne Sprecher. On top of that, they also average 17.0 shots per game and 7.3 opponent shots per game thanks to an incredibly aggressive offense and a stout defensive formation, respectively. Simply put, they’re elite, and eventually, people will take notice. Regardless of what that number ranking is supposed to indicate of this team, winning this upcoming match could put the Huskies squarely in the national spotlight where the team and its potential can no longer be ignored.
Now we look at the other side of this matinee: the Liberty Flames, who come into Friday with a 4-3 record overall and a 1-0 record within Big East conference play. Thus far, the Flames’ season has been quite the mixed bag. They’ve annihilated inferior competition, as shown by staggering wins over Kent State (9-0), conference rival Georgetown (10-0) and Queens University of Charlotte (11-0). However, at the other end of the spectrum, they’ve failed to match that intensity when facing ranked opponents, where they’ve had heartbreakers like their 1-0 overtime loss to William & Mary as well as blowouts like their 3-0 loss to No. 1 Northwestern. The loss that deserves a closer look, however, is actually their most recent one to James Madison, a match where they actually scored their first two goals within the first 11 minutes, only to allow three consecutive goals in the 20 minutes immediately after, never retaking the lead. Though Pima Iturraspe, Liberty’s leading goal scorer, showed assertiveness early, the rest of the team did not exude the same energy and it showed in the final result. As tough a defeat as that was, it could be what ignites the Flames and spurs them into Friday with a new outlook and determination.
Though UConn now has the luxury of playing a game on their home turf at Sherman Field in Storrs, they still have quite the challenge on their hands in the form of a Liberty squad that is likely seeking to avenge the loss in their previous match. It’s bound to be quite the fight, but a victory in this game could be what finally vaults UConn into the top 5 in the country, a spot that would be well-deserved.