Men’s Soccer: Huskies look to snap cold streak versus Providence

9/24/22 MSOC vs Butler by Erin Knapp. The UConn Huskies take on the Butler Bulldogs for a soccer game at Morrone Stadium with a kickoff time of 7 P.M. on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Huskies lost to the Bulldogs 1-4, with their only point being scored in the first half.

Following a hard-fought 0-1 loss at the hands of Xavier over the weekend, the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team will look for a strong response in a midweek tilt with conference foe Providence on Wednesday.  

The Huskies (2-5-1) are amidst a stretch of five consecutive matches without a win, a skid that’s reached a month in duration. Despite the recent slump, Connecticut put together an impressive effort to hold a powerful Musketeers team to a single goal after allowing the Butler Bulldogs to score four goals in a game the week prior. Head coach Chris Gbandi noted after his team’s latest loss that although his squad’s effort has been clear, the team needs to find ways to secure wins against good opponents. 

“We’re finding ways, so far, to lose these games,” head coach Chris Gbandi said after the contest. “We need to figure that out; we need to find a way to beat good teams. I think that’s the biggest and next step for us as a team. We have a lot of good teams coming up [on the schedule] … but I was proud of the guys [and their performance against Xavier]. I thought they worked hard, I thought that they put the effort there … we just need to find a way to get [results] in these tough games.”  

A player to keep an eye on for UConn in the upcoming contest will be graduate student Frantz Pierrot. Ever since fellow forward Moussa Wade went down with an injury in a game against NJIT last month, Pierrot has become one of the Huskies’ go-to playmakers. In his first season with the program, the Merrimack transfer leads Connecticut with three goals, including goals in consecutive contests against Creighton and Butler. Pierrot also leads UConn in points (7), shots (27) and shots on goal (13), the latter two of which he leads by a wide margin. Though he didn’t come up with a score against Xavier, Pierrot had a chance at the net in the fifth minute when he was able to get a shot off a loose ball in the Musketeers box. However, the shot was deflected and the Musketeer’s goalkeeper was able to secure the ball. The Haiti native will look to set the tone for a UConn offense that has not recorded multiple goals in a single game since Sept. 2. 

The Huskies will also hope that sophomore Mateo Leveque begins to catch fire in their upcoming battle. UConn’s sole All-Big East Preseason member, Leveque has followed up a strong freshman campaign with a formidable second season. He is second on the team in points (6), shots (17) and shots on goal (7) behind Pierrot, while pacing Connecticut in assists (4). Though he’s near the top in most of his team’s offensive statistics, Levenque has only converted one goal on his 17 attempts and was last responsible for a point on Sept. 10 against Creighton. Very few of UConn’s possessions see Leveque without the ball, making his performance vital to his team’s success. 

Providence (3-2-4) was voted the best of the 11 Big East teams by the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, narrowly beating Georgetown in total votes, 94-93. They were also ranked 16th nationally in the Preseason National Coaches’ Poll prior to this season. Though they haven’t outplayed the imposing Hoyas, the latest NCAA Ratings Power Index currently ranks the Friars as the second-best team in the Big East. Despite their small win total, the Friars have been competitive in every game that they’ve played this season, resulting in the team tallying four ties, the highest total in the conference. They’ve outscored their opponents on the season, 12-8, and have held their opposition to only 6.4 shot attempts per contest. The Huskies, meanwhile, average 12.9 shot attempts per game, making a main focus for Providence limiting the number of looks that UConn is able to get in front of the goal. 

9/24/22 MSOC vs Butler by Erin Knapp. The UConn Huskies take on the Butler Bulldogs for a soccer game at Morrone Stadium with a kickoff time of 7 P.M. on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Huskies lost to the Bulldogs 1-4, with their only point being scored in the first half.

The Friars had three players named to the Preseason All-Big East team: Junior forward Gevork Diarbian, senior midfielder Luis Garcia, and graduate student defender Ramzi Qawasmy. In addition to the All-Big East team recognition, Qawasmy was also named a Big East Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year recipient along with Georgetown’s Daniel Wu. Both Qawasmy and Garcia were recognized as one of 38 Division 1 soccer players on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, the nation’s highest individual honor that recognizes the National Player of the Year. 

The recognition has certainly been earned, as Qawasmy started in each of the 20 games he played for the Friars and logged 1,893 minutes in the backfield during the 2021 season. The defender helped the team compile seven shutouts on the season while holding opponents to an average of less than 10 shots per game. To conclude the season, he was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team and the United Soccer Coaches All-East Region First Team. 

Meanwhile, Garcia played in all 21 games for the Friars last season, including 20 appearances in the starting line-up. He finished the year with 15 points on five goals and five assists. Each of Garcia’s offensive totals marked career highs. The midfielder tallied a career-best five points on two goals and one assist in a 3-0 victory against No. 1-ranked Georgetown on Oct. 23. At the conclusion of the 2021 season, Garcia was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team and United Soccer Coaches All-East Region First Team. 

Kick-off is set for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut. The game will be broadcast live on FloSports with live stats provided by StatBroadcast. 

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