The season is coming to a close, and UConn’s No. 13-ranked field hockey team has only two matches left before it’s all said and done; on Friday, they’ll be taking on Temple at home at the Sherman Family Sports Complex in Storrs at 1 p.m., and on Sunday, they’ll face a goliath in No. 2 Maryland, also at the Sherman Family Sports Complex. Both games will prove important for conference tournament and national seeding purposes, since UConn is still aiming for top spots before tourney season begins.
The first opponent of the weekend is the Temple Owls, who hold records of 11-5 overall and 3-3 in Big East play. That amounts to a pretty good season overall, and could lead to Temple playing spoiler in tourney play. Their biggest win of the season was a drubbing of fellow Pennsylvanian university, Lehigh, back in August when the Owls defeated the Mountain Hawks 6-0. Temple got scores from six different players while completely outpacing Lehigh in total shots (15-6), shots on goal (13-2) and penalty corners (9-2). Matter of fact, the Mountain Hawks couldn’t even manage a single shot until the third quarter, showing how much the Owls dominated that match on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Temple’s season has not been without its struggles though: to this point, they have not defeated a ranked team. Three of their five losses have been to top 25 squads like No. 6 Virginia, No. 14 Old Dominion and No. 16 Liberty. Not having at least one of those wins under their belt places Temple solidly outside the top 25. Regardless, they’re certainly one of the best unranked teams the Huskies have faced thus far, and will most certainly put up a good fight.
The biggest challenge of the weekend, though, comes in the form of Maryland, coming in with an impressive 15-2 record while going 7-1 in Big 10 play. They are No. 2 in the nation for a reason, having only lost to No. 7 Princeton 4-3 in overtime and No. 3 Penn State 5-1. The list of teams they’ve defeated includes No. 4 Northwestern, No. 5 Virginia, No. 6 Michigan, No. 10 Iowa, No. 15 Harvard, No. 18 Ohio State and No. 21 Rutgers, solidifying themselves as top dogs in an incredibly tough field hockey conference like the Big 10, as well as one of the best in the country. This match will be the best yardstick the Huskies will have to measure their growth since their matchup with No. 1 North Carolina, a match in which they were outclassed. If UConn comes out the other side with a close loss (or perhaps even a victory), they should feel confident heading into their conference tournament.
These last two matches are certainly not gimmes for a UConn team that is looking to make some noise on a national level; if they want people to believe that they are truly among the country’s elite, they’ll have to prove it this weekend by taking at least one, if not both, games. By the end of the weekend, the world will know what kind of group these Huskies really are.