This Saturday, the No. 25 UConn women’s lacrosse team is set to take on their biggest challenge of the season on their home turf. That challenge comes in the form of No. 3 Denver, one of the most ruthless and dominant teams in the nation. It’ll be the Huskies’ second in-conference matchup of the year after they beat Villanova by seven just a few days ago. The 12-0 Pioneers will pose a completely different mountain to climb though.
Some undefeated teams in sports go through their seasons not challenging themselves. They play easy games, but when the going gets tough they crumble. This Denver team is a completely different story. In their first four games, they took care of business against unranked teams, flashing their stellar defense with a goals against average of 5.5, but had trouble putting points on the board.
Their next two opponents were No. 21 Michigan and No. 5 Maryland and it was time to see how their lockdown defense and sufficient offense would fair against the best of the best. The margin of victory wasn’t high (1.5 per game), but they completely shut the Wolverines and Terps down. They allowed 12 goals across the two contests, a testament to how dominant they were.
The Pioneers took care of some unranked teams before hitting another wave of ranked foes. This time, they were much more commanding in their efforts, winning by five goals apiece. The difference this time wasn’t their defense, but their improved offense that saw Denver eclipse 12 both times. After beating Butler by 15 and then Villanova — a shared opponent — by 13, they find themselves coming to Storrs.
The biggest player to watch for Denver will be Julia Gilbert, who has brought a steady dose of scoring every time she has hit the field with 31 goals on the season. After she scored just a goal in her first two appearances of the campaign, she’s scored multiple times each time out since, with seven hat tricks. She hasn’t done much in the passing department, collecting just four assists all year, three of which came in the Butler blowout. In her two games against Connecticut last year, Gilbert combined for six goals and three assists, a clear leader.
As important as ever will be UConn goalkeeper Landyn White, who has a very small margin for error. The Denver defense won’t let much pass, so White will have one of the most significant tests of her career. She’s prepared for it though: the All-American honorable mention is in the top 10 nationally in save percentage, saves per game and total saves. White has been locking down opponents all season, but there is no challenge more important than this one. If UConn wins, their path to the top of the Big East becomes wide and easy, but a loss makes it near impossible.
Either way, as long as the Huskies put up a fight, they’re still in decent position for an NCAA tournament berth. The game will stream on FloSports at noon on Saturday.