The No. 14 ranked UConn field hockey team’s season has finally come to an end. After what was a really good 11-6 season, the Huskies grabbed the No. 3 seed in the Big East and went to Norfolk, VA, home of Old Dominion, to take on No. 19 (and Big East No. 2) Liberty University in a semifinal match. Despite the disparity in national ranking, Liberty took Friday’s playoff match in a convincing 2-1 fashion.
The day started quickly for Connecticut, as it usually does. Thanks to its patented aggressiveness, it took a 1-0 lead a mere 2:33 into the match off a goal from the stick of Julia Bressler via Juana Garcia. They’d keep shooting too, as UConn got off a tremendous ten shots during the first quarter while not letting the Lady Flames get anywhere near the goal. Everything was going the way the Huskies wanted. But then, a little over five minutes into the second, Liberty’s Martu Cian got one into the back of the net for a neutralizing score that managed to calm the Flames’ nerves. That’s when the game evened up again, as both sides traded shots and held up well on defense. After ten more minutes of play, it was finally the end of the half.
The pressure didn’t stop at the start of the second, however: both teams became more conservative and held on even tighter to any defensive advantage they could find. Thus, the third quarter was easily the slowest one with the least action, as both teams could only manage one shot on each other, playing it safe so as to not overextend and perhaps give up a great chance to their opponents. The beginning of the fourth quarter finally saw the end of the deadlock, with Liberty’s Jody Conolly scoring in the forty-seventh minute off of a Bethany Dykema assist. The Lady Flames would never look back, as they held firm to that lead, despite any pressure the Huskies could apply, right up to the end of the game, with a resulting final score of 2-1 in the favor of Liberty.
That was not the way Connecticut wanted its season to end. The Huskies accomplished a lot during the course of their 17 regular season matches and showed time and time again that they had a trajectory of becoming one of the best teams in collegiate field hockey. With what they’ve built during this season, perhaps they can finally get back to being the program they were under Nancy Stevens, currently the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history and maybe even win a championship or two somewhere down the road.