Despite a strong showing in the biggest game of the season, the UConn men’s soccer team couldn’t get the job done on Wednesday night, falling to No. 17 Georgetown in a 1-0 heartbreaker.
This marked the second straight game that could have propelled UConn to a conference tournament spot, with Saturday’s draw at St. John’s being the first. With this loss, as well as a Providence win over Creighton, the Huskies drop out of the sixth spot in the Big East and are eliminated from postseason contention.
“It’s so unfortunate that we couldn’t get a result tonight to prolong our season,” said Huskies head coach Chris Gbandi. “The guys have been working super hard for us… I’m super proud of the group for how hard they fought this season.”
Coming into the game, the Hoyas had already locked in not only a conference tournament spot, but the No. 1 overall spot and the Big East regular season crown. While the visitors definitely wanted to go into the tournament with some momentum, the home team had more need for a win.
The first half was all Huskies, as UConn looked more like the ranked team than Georgetown. Clearly motivated to pave their way to the Big East Championship in Gbandi’s first year at the helm, the team had complete control over the game. The offense was truly clicking, as Connecticut outshot Georgetown 13-2, peppering opposing goalkeeper Ryan Schewe throughout the half. The Hoyas’ back line struggled, while the Huskies kept pressuring, taking away the ball in the process.
The only thing that wasn’t going right for UConn was the most important factor – they couldn’t find the net. Schewe did everything in his power to prevent a goal, keeping up his status as one of the most dominant keepers in Division I soccer. Coming into Wednesday’s match, the junior ranked 12th in the country in goals allowed against with .632. In net for the Hoyas this season, Schewe entered with an 8-0-1 record. It proved to be a highly difficult task for the UConn to even sneak one shot by the visiting goalie.
One of the Huskies’ best opportunities of the first half came in the 25th minute, when sophomore Mateo Leveque sent in a lob off of a deep free kick. The ball found the head of top scorer Frantz Pierrot and actually slipped by Schewe, but the following shot was called back due to an offsides call.
While Connecticut was in the driver’s seat for the majority of the first period, Georgetown may have had the best opportunity to score early. In the 11th minute, the Hoyas’ Ronan Dillow sent a ball along the six-yard box to Jack Panayotou, but the attacker failed to get a clean foot on it, missing wide.
At halftime, Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese must have had quite the speech, because the Hoyas had a completely different tone out of the break. There were still opportunities for UConn, but now the game appeared much more balanced.
Heartbreak struck the Huskies in the 60th minute. Georgetown’s Kyle Linhares put another ground pass into the six-yard box, where, despite facing tighter coverage than his first-half chance, Panayotou was able to strike. He blasted a low shot off of goalie Michael Stone’s hands and into the back of the net to put the Hoyas up 1-0.
All of a sudden, in order to solidify a spot in the conference tournament, UConn had to put not one, but two goals by Schewe – in just 30 minutes of play.
The Huskies put up quite a fight. Just five minutes later, it was Leveque who set up Eli Conway with a shot inside the box. While it wasn’t blocked by a defender, the low strike was knocked away by the outstretched hands of Schewe to keep the deficit to two.
In the 87th minute, UConn had a real chance to tie it yet again, with Leveque sending in a corner kick that found the head of Scott Testori in the middle of the box. While Testori has dealt damage off of headers this season, it wasn’t meant to be in this one. Schewe dove to make yet another beautiful save to put the exclamation mark on the win.
While Connecticut sent everyone forward in the final few minutes, including Stone, it would be no use, as the final score would read 1-0. Schewe would finish the contest with four saves.
“I thought it was a great performance from the group tonight,” said Gbandi postgame. “I thought we dominated the game. Give credit to Georgetown. They found a way to get a goal when they needed it most. I was proud of the group, the way they worked and the intensity they played with.”
It was Senior Night for the Huskies, as ten players were honored pregame. Christos Charalambous, Owen Guglielmino, Stone, Aiden Cavanaugh, Pierrot, Josh Morgan, Kai Griese, Thomas Decottignies, Jayden Reid
, and Moussa Wade all had their deserved moments.
With the loss, UConn finishes their season at a clean 7-7-3 overall, 3-4-3 in conference. It will be a long offseason and the group of seniors will surely be missed, but the team looks to come back even stronger next fall.