This Saturday, while many are getting ready to watch the UConn men’s basketball team suit up for the Final Four, the school’s women’s lacrosse team faces a challenge of their own. The Huskies are making the trip down to Robert Kraft Field in Inwood, New York to play the Columbia Lions a short five miles from their campus in Morningside Heights.
The Lions haven’t had a great year, ranking in the bottom half of the country in most computer metrics. They’ve won three of their nine games so far, already a game better than their two-win campaign last year. Columbia started off with a pair of victories at Lafayette and at home versus Central Connecticut State, with a dominant 31-16 margin across the games. After dropping a contest to Monmouth in New Jersey, they traveled just two miles inland from Kraft Field to Riverdale, beating Manhattan 10-8. Since their 3-1 start, the Lions have dropped their past five games, losing by an average of seven goals.
Their offense has a fair bit of scoring firepower, but they don’t have too many defined facilitators. No player has more than six assists and the team has 39 on the year. The team’s leading scorer is Cecelia Messner, who has notched 19 goals to go along with three assists. The standout freshman scored four goals in her first game, but has had more modest showings since. In the eight other games, she’s never gone scoreless, but Messner hasn’t done better than a hat trick. Even if the Lions aren’t winning right now, having the team in the hands of Messner is a good omen for their future.
Another strong contributor is Dani Falcone, who is tied with Messner for points. An impressive note is that the sophomore has done this in two fewer contests. She’s scored multiple goals in all but one game and has five helpers on the campaign. Falcone and Messner are setting a great foundation for the Lions as they try to build on this current season and turn experience into wins later.
For UConn, the game will wrap up their non-conference slate, as they’re already more than halfway through the season. They’re 6-3 so far and are coming off a big win over UAlbany and a tight, overtime win at Hofstra. Metrics rank the Pride and Columbia as teams of very similar caliber, so this game could be an intriguing matchup.
UConn’s signature win was against No. 15 Yale just three weeks ago in Storrs, another demonstration that they know how to come out victorious in crunch time. Kate Shaffer was the overtime hero in that matchup, one of many instances where she’s stepped up. Shaffer is the team leader in both goals and assists, making this season hers. She exploded for a number of high-scoring performances last season, but has brought a more consistent look this year which has been incredibly valuable for the team. She is one of the Huskies’ many weapons, but if she’s playing as usual, it’ll be hard to lose.
Opening draw for the game is set for 7 p.m. ET and can be viewed on ESPN+.