It’s hard to adjust as a team when you lose arguably the best player in program history, Sydney Watson to graduation. Either way, you have to readjust and reload accordingly and the Huskies struggled to do that on Wednesday. In their season opener against the Fairfield Stags, the Connecticut Women’s Lacrosse team got the win after nearly choking it away, ultimately coming out on top 18-17 in overtime.
Throughout last year, Kate Shaffer only got better, making her progress known to the world. She emerged as the team’s fourth leading scorer with 41 goals in 15 games, also growing into the starting role. She only notched 14 assists on the campaign, but with Watson departing, she was hoping to improve in that area. On Wednesday, the senior went absolutely nuclear, notching a career-high seven goals to go along with three assists which ties her career best. Shaffer is proving very quickly she’s ready to take on the reins of this team and be the alpha. It’ll take more than one game to make that clear, but fans couldn’t have asked for a better indicator so early.
Last year’s third leading scorer didn’t miss much of a beat either, as grad student Grace Coon also had an impressive outing. She notched five goals on nine tries, putting a lot of pressure on the Stags. The 2022 all Big East second-teamer is looking to have a repeat performance of last year where she scored 41 goals. UConn’s success is heavily dependent on the production from Coon, so it’ll be critical that she doesn’t miss a step.
Also promising from Wednesday’s game was the performance of sophomore Rayea Davis, a sophomore who missed all of her first year to injury. She was a high-level recruit who had a storied high school career at Rush Henrietta, so seeing her out on the floor was a welcome sign. She had a surprisingly good outing for her opening game, posting nine shots, which was tied for the team high. She only connected on three such attempts, but opening your career with a hat trick is quite the way to start. If she can sustain anywhere near this type of production — and maybe convert at a higher rate — and others step up, they’d come pretty close to filling in the gaping hole that Watson’s departure left.
The game started slow for the Huskies, as they fell behind 3-1 in the opening six minutes, doing their best to claw back. For every early goal they scored, it seemed like the Stags had an answer. Even with Shaffer’s first quarter hat trick, they were behind 5-4 after 15 minutes.
The first five minutes of the second frame were a completely different story with four different Connecticut players finding the back of the net. The next few ticks weren’t much better for Fairfield, as UConn went on a commanding 8-2 run to get ahead by four into the half.
The Huskies maintained their four-goal lead most of the way through the third period, but faltered in the final 2:30, as they gave up a pair. The Huskies restored their advantage early in the final quarter, but with five minutes left, things started to go south. The Huskies’ defense collapsed and let up five goals in that span, their only saving grace being a Davis goal with three to go. They went into overtime with momentum going in the wrong direction, but Davis demonstrated her clutch gene early, netting the game winner with less than a minute left in overtime.
A win is a win and Fairfield isn’t a bad team, but there are definitely a number of items to patch up defensively. The Huskies’ next chance to do just that comes in Maryland on Saturday against No. 12 James Madison, their first true test of the year.