UConn hosted their first ranked opponent last night, welcoming No. 15 Vermont to Storrs. The Catamounts came into the match on a tear at 7-1-2, shutting out five of their opponents and not allowing more than one goal in any of their games.
Many coming into the game knew it was going to be a physical low-scoring matchup between two aggressive teams. Vermont actually came into the game leading the entire NCAA with fouls per game (16.8), and UConn is just a physical team in general as a result of playing in the Big East.
UConn didn’t get their first real chance until the 20 minutes in, when an Eli Conway header in front of the goal barely missed at the top. Just six minutes later, Pierce Bateson and Josh Morgan passed the ball back and forth until Bateson centered it to no avail.
While the Huskies struggled to score, Vermont was able to take the lead. Redshirt-junior Yaniv Bazini beat UConn’s Guillaume Vacter for a chance in front of the net. Goalie Jayden Hibbert lost his footing and slipped, allowing Bazini’s kick to go right by him to give the Catamounts the 1-0 advantage in minute 29.
Now playing from behind, the next chance for UConn came 35 minutes in. First-year Ayoub Lajhar attacked the bottom right corner, but a diving stop by Vermont’s Owen Jack kept the Huskies scoreless.
Despite no goals to show for it, UConn put the pressure on the Vermont defense as they controlled the ball the majority of the first half. First-year Lucas Almeida put up one last shot for the Huskies before heading to half, but he just wasn’t able to find any open space.
Heading into the break, UConn had five shots in the first half to Vermont’s two, but Vermont’s lone shot on goal proved to be the difference.
Coming back after half, UConn went all out with the pressure again. Vermont was forced to play most of the half on the defense as the Huskies continued to pour on shots.
However, a late mistake in the box lead to a penalty kick for Vermont to dig a deeper hole for UConn. Vermont’s Carter Johnson padded the Catamounts lead with that penalty goal 78 minutes in to put his team up two. To make matters worse, goalie Jayden Hibbert guessed exactly where Johnson was shooting and even tipped the ball, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the score.
This would be the final score of the game as UConn left empty handed. In what has become a familiar issue for the Huskies, this was the fourth game this year that they’ve had to try and come from behind. Yesterday’s shutout marked just the second time this season that UConn had been blanked, the first since they lost 2-0 against LIU the second game of the year.
There are three moments in the second half that stand out for the Huskies. A minute 60 header by Adil Iggoute that went over the goal, a chance at minute 75 by Eli Conway who missed an easy chip in and an open minute 84 chance by Pierce Bateson that missed the goal completely. The Huskies played most of the game on the offensive side of the ball, but despite so many opportunities, they were never able to capitalize. In total, UConn totaled 15 shots on the night to Vermont’s four, but it was the quality of Vermont’s shots that really separated the two clubs.
The loss brings UConn’s record to 6-4-0 on the year and breaks their five-game winning streak at home. Vermont, on the other hand, picks up their sixth shutout of the season and continues to suffocate opponents on defense. Catamounts’ goalie Owen Jack (three saves) picked up his sixth clean sheet of 2023, this ties him for second in the NCAA with five other players. Bryants’ Antreas Hadjigavriel leads the nation with nine shutouts in 11 games.
The Huskies will play a second straight game against a ranked team, this time against Big East rival No. 12 Georgetown. The Hoyas are 7-1-1 on the year and are fresh off a victory at Princeton. Georgetown has dominated UConn in the past few years, beating the Huskies five out of the last six times they’ve played. The game will be played in Georgetown this Saturday at 1 p.m. and can be streamed on FloSports.