The UConn Women’s field hockey team started their season off with a weekend road trip, first pitting them against Saint Joseph’s University on Friday. Connecticut started off slow, conceding a goal halfway through the first quarter. UConn never found its footing in this matchup, surrendering another goal on a sloppy defensive possession that saw five USJ corners in the dying embers of the first quarter.
After this, UConn and SJU were locked into a defensive struggle with no more goals scored, and neither side capitalizing on their few offensive opportunities. This contest was expected to be close from the get-go, as before this contest, SJU was ranked the No. 11 team in the country, Connecticut being ranked No. 15. Despite the high ranking UConn received, it’s a long road to — and through — Big East, as they are ranked third in the conference, a testament to the stiff competition the Huskies will endure.
For Sunday’s contest, the Huskies found themselves in West Long Branch, New Jersey, facing a formidable opponent in Monmouth University. These teams are familiar with each other, as last regular season, the Huskies won 2-1 in a back-and-forth contest, similar to Sunday’s matchup. UConn wasted no time asserting themselves in this contest, outpacing Monmouth up and down the pitch and creating many scoring opportunities in the circle. In the first quarter, Connecticut set themselves up many times to score, including one instance in which they had three consecutive corners, but despite this, the Hawks shut UConn down each time. This was undoubtedly a wasted offensive possession in which the Huskies failed to score.
“We’re bringing in the best goalkeeper of all time. She has played at the highest level and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program. we’re excited to get her on campus and kickoff the season.”Paul Caddy
Despite this, Violeta Francese atoned for Connecticut’s previous mishaps by scoring her first career goal, which snuck underneath the keeper’s pads and into the back of the cage. Something of note by both schools in the first quarter was that there was little midfield play — the opportunities to create offense were lacking in this first period, for the most part, as possessions didn’t last long, and both schools utilized long passes down the pitch, which did not generate many offensive opportunities.
Putting their slow start in the rearview mirror, Monmouth came out swinging in the second quarter, doing what UConn did to them in the first quarter: outpacing and passing within the circle to set up scoring opportunities. Monmouth’s Sofia Fouces led the charge early, creating her own offense by scoring a second-chance shot that leveled the contest. This goal was the wake-up call for UConn, as they responded quickly with an emphasis on moving the ball down the pitch quickly yet methodically, and this yielded a corner; however, there were no goals to show for the effort.
The decisive moments returned in the fourth quarter with a goal by junior Sophia Ugo. Ugo’s score capped off a slow drive by the Huskies, where they didn’t allow the Hawks any opportunity to see the ball. Ugo’s goal was also the decider, as the two teams went scoreless to the final whistle, giving the Huskies their first win this season, defeating the Hawks in their home opener. One player to watch this season is freshman Natalie McKenna, who played excellent goalkeeping all weekend and will only improve. McKenna has the opportunity at Storrs to be the best version of herself, as former Olympic medalist goalkeeper Maddie Hinch is joining the squad for a coaching role.
“We’re bringing in the best goalkeeper of all time,” noted head coach Paul Caddy of Hinch. “She has played at the highest level and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program. We’re excited to get her on campus and kickoff the season.”
The Huskies resume play on Sept. 1, and if you are on campus, you can catch the action at 4 p.m. right here on campus.