On the heels of a four game win streak, the No. 9 ranked University of Connecticut field hockey team had a sluggish start and were unable to shake it off as they lost to No. 16 Liberty University 4-0 on Friday. The completion of that match made it the fourth straight loss taken by the Huskies when facing Flames, including a loss in the Big East championship last season.
Given the way the game played out, it seems as though UConn was caught on the back foot. After running quite the gauntlet of opponents recently, they’d had nearly a week of reprieve before they went into their Friday matinee, allowing the team to get some much needed rest. However, as the match started, Liberty sprung to life much faster than UConn could, burying a ball in the back of the net at the 4:07 mark, thanks to Charlotte Vaanhold, assisted by Martu Cian. The Huskies tried to regroup, but as the second quarter began, they dug themselves an even deeper hole. First was a goal at the 16:59 mark off the stick of Daniella Rhodes, assisted by Bethany Dykema and Reagan Underwood. Then, not even two minutes later, Lexi Hosler of the Flames put in yet another score, assisted by Rhodes, and not even a third of the way into the game, Liberty held a strong 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, despite two shots each from the Huskies’ Julia Bressler, Claire Jadenwerth and McKenna Sergi, Connecticut couldn’t get itself back into the game. And sure enough, Liberty would get one last nail in the coffin to close it out just as the third quarter was ending: another goal from Rhodes, assisted by Vaanhold, right at the 45:00 mark. At that point, there was no coming back, and UConn went scoreless while also getting dominated on the defensive end. The match was a true aberration from the brand of hockey the Huskies had played all season up to that point.
There were still some highlights for Connecticut, however: despite allowing four goals, goalie Caroline Sprecher made eight saves. Also, as the match went on, the Huskies found their aggression, creating more opportunities for themselves, and though they only had four shots on goal in the first three quarters, they matched that total in the fourth alone. They also racked up penalty corners, managing to give themselves five opportunities on their opponents’ endline. It seems that the women realized that they had not played the way they should for the majority of the match, and sought to remedy that in hopes of making a magical comeback in the way they did against then-No. 24 Delaware two weeks prior. Sadly, it was too little, too late.
Despite the unfortunate nature of this loss, there is a lot that UConn can take away from a result like this. It will reinforce that despite their incredible run over the last month, they are human after all, and nothing can be taken for granted. And given what we’ve seen from the Huskies over the course of this season, they’ll whip themselves into shape in no time and be on the other end of beatdowns like this in the future.