After UConn field hockey went a perfect two-for-two at their last showing against No. 20 Maryland and Big East rival Georgetown, expectations were sky high for this young squad. This past weekend, they traveled to Conshohocken, Pennsylvania for a Big East showdown against Villanova University. Up to this point, fans have been accustomed to the typical Friday and Sunday two-game split; however, UConn’s match on Friday afternoon was their only game this weekend.
Villanova came into this fixture as the favorites, boasting a 5-4 record and looking for revenge after Fairfield snapped their three-game winning streak. The Wildcats’ season-long strength has been their prolific offense, most notably their victory over Longwood by a healthy 7-0 margin. Conversely, Connecticut’s assertive defense has kept them competitive all season, but last weekend, their offense brought it, too.
It took only 10 minutes for Villanova to draw first blood, thanks to a nice shot by Colleen Finnan against freshman goalkeeper Natalie McKenna. While the Huskies failed to score anything in the first quarter, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Connecticut did a good job creating scoring opportunities, drawing three penalty corners compared to the Wildcats’ two and outshooting Villanova 6-4. Undoubtedly, if the UConn women had kept this pace up, they would have eventually found the back of the cage. However, their aggressiveness on offense did not follow them into the second quarter.
While the Wildcat offense has been exemplary this season, make no mistake: their defense is just as good. Villanova’s defensive work was was on display for their home crowd as UConn failed to get a shot off the entire second quarter. On the same note, the Connecticut defense picked up the slack, only allowing one shot.
The second half started on a positive note for the Connecticut women as graduate student transfer Belle Bressler leveled the contest. All season long, Bressler has played excellently and her latest goal marks a two-game goal-scoring streak, a bright spot in an offense that fails to generate many goals. The rest of the third was close until, in the dying embers of the frame, Sabine de Ruijter smashed one past Connecticut’s defense off a penalty corner. This goal proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Huskies as neither side scored again and Villanova improved to a 6-4 record with this nail-biting victory.
While some may look at the UConn women’s record of 4-7 and chalk this season up as a loss, it doesn’t tell the entire story. The Huskies had a tough schedule up to this point and have played competitive field hockey in each contest. Five of their losses have been by one goal, and two of them in overtime. It is not fair to give up on this team, as they still have seven games left to play and will bring that fighting spirit that we have seen time and time again.
Connecticut looks to rebound next weekend with a road trip that includes the 4-4 Quinnipiac Bobcats and the No. 18 UMass Amherst Minutemen, who boast a 6-5 record. Without a doubt, if the Connecticut women wish to pull off the victory, it will be a fight to the finish. Both of these schools are excellent and have succeeded on the field, but the high-powered Connecticut defense has proven they can keep it close against anyone. It is up to the offense to come in and close out the show for Connecticut.