Men’s Soccer: Huskies pounce on Holy Cross, win season opener 

UConn men’s soccer wins their home opener against Holy Cross at the Marrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. on Aug. 27, 2023. The Huskies held momentum throughout the entire match, finishing the game with a score of four goals to none. Photo by Skyler Kim/The Daily Campus

On Sunday night, in front of a jam-packed crowd for their season opener at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, located at the Rizza Performance Center in Storrs, Connecticut, the UConn men’s soccer team appeared in midseason form as the squad easily handled the visiting Crusaders of the College of the Holy Cross to claim their first victory of the season by a convincing 4-0 score. 

Both teams were caught in a stalemate for the first 18 minutes of the match until sophomore Eli Conway broke the scoreless tie to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead, an advantage that they would not squander to the Crusaders for the remaining 70+ minutes of action. On the play, sophomore Christian Dionne executed a well-placed cross pass from outside the Holy Cross goal box directly in front of the net. Graduate student Adil Iggoute received the pass and headed the ball down to Conway, leading him to convert on the short goal opportunity. 

It took Connecticut just 27 seconds to pad their lead, this time with Iggoute managing the goal. In the 19th minute of action, sophomore Nicolas Tomerius took the ball across midfield on the left side of the pitch towards Holy Cross territory. As he approached the goal box, Tomerius made a strong move to create separation between him and the defender which allowed the midfielder to complete a nice pass into traffic just in front of the Crusader goal. Fortunately for the Huskies, Iggoute was able to get to the ball first and tapped the short-range attempt into the back of the net. In just under 20 minutes, Connecticut already had a multiple-goal lead with the score standing at 2-0. 

Connecticut capped off a dominant first half with another goal in the 42nd minute. Good ball movement from the Huskies enabled junior Scott Testori to receive the ball with just one defender to beat. With a full head of steam, Testori challenged the defender to his left side and was able to wrap his initial attempt around the Holy Cross defender, though Crusaders goalie Tristan Stephani provided a second line of defense and deflected the shot. The deflection helped the Huskies, as the ball ended up back at Testori’s feet and was rocketed into the back of the net before Holy Cross could recover. The trifecta of goals gave UConn a convincing 3-0 lead heading into the half. 

After the first 20 minutes of the second period did not yield a score, sophomore Pierce Bateson excited fans once more with the Huskies fourth goal of the contest. On the play, Testori weaved between Holy Cross defenders and made progress towards the Crusaders’ goal. As Testori approached the goalbox, Bateson crashed towards the Crusaders’ goal. Testori converted the short pass through the teeth of Holy Cross’ defense and found Bateson still on the move, and the midfielder made easy work of the short shot attempt as he sliced the ball around multiple defenders before it reached the back of the net. The goal gave Connecticut a 4-0 lead, which proved to be the final tally when the 90th minute concluded to signal the end of the contest. 

UConn men’s soccer wins their home opener against Holy Cross at the Marrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. on Aug. 27, 2023. The Huskies held momentum throughout the entire match, finishing the game with a score of four goals to none. Photo by Skyler Kim/The Daily Campus

While the four goals were the cherry on top of an impressive offensive display from the Huskies in the early going, the offense was able to thrive in large part due to UConn’s high level of play on the defensive side of the ball. Headlined by senior captain Guillaume Vacter, the Husky defense surrendered only three shot attempts to the Crusaders en route to a clean sheet. Holy Cross also committed more fouls than Connecticut, 13 to nine, as the pressure put on by the Huskies from start to finish began to rattle the visitors. 

The team accomplished the well-earned victory on Student Traditions Night in front of a sellout crowd at Morrone Stadium. In addition to the plethora of UConn students and fans who made their presence felt in the team’s opening contest, a number of recognizable figures across UConn athletics made an appearance to show their support for the men’s soccer team as well as to kick off the new year of athletics set to take place in Storrs this fall and the subsequent winter and spring seasons. 

“I’m looking forward to getting everyone back out here [this] Friday,” UConn head coach Chris Gbandi said in regards to the packed crowd that filled the Morrone bleachers on Sunday. 

In a postgame interview, Gbandi expressed approval for his team’s performance on the field as well as the player’s abilities to work well as a unit: “I thought the group played pretty well,” Gbandi said. “We had some good stuff offensively and defensively we were pretty strong. There are always things to work on, [and] our biggest goal [is to] get better every single day… We have a good group [of players]. They work hard and make my job a lot easier.” 

UConn will have some time off before they take the pitch for their next game. The team is set to welcome the Sharks of Long Island University to Storrs on Friday. The game will kick-off at 7 p.m. from Morrone Stadium. 

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