A lot was at stake in terms of Big East Tournament seeding as the UConn women’s soccer team (9-3-5, 6-1-3 Big East) traveled to South Orange, N.J., taking on Seton Hall University (6-7-5, 2-4-4 Big East).
For the Huskies, with a win and a Xavier loss or tie, UConn would be the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. With a loss or tie, they would be the No. 3 seed.
Seton Hall was looking for its first Big East Tournament appearance since 2011, which they needed to win or have DePaul lose to make the top-6 cut.
About 11 minutes into the match, midfielder Jessica Mazo came off the field with a few trainers alongside her as she suffered an unknown lower back injury that kept her out for the first half.
Nine minutes later, forward Chioma Okafor passed the ball out to midfielder Abbey Jones, who launched a rocket towards the net, however, it just sailed over the net for the Huskies’ first scoring opportunity.
Seton Hall defender Isis Ovares tripped Connecticut defender Laci Lewis, which resulted in a penalty kick for the Huskies. The penalty was reviewed but upheld.
Midfielder Emma Zaccagnini made Seton Hall goalkeeper Anna Prawer dive to the right side of the net, which left the left side wide open for the Watertown, Conn. native to get an easy goal for her first of the season, her third in her college career.
UConn outshot the Pirates in the first half, 6-3, with three shots on goal, including the eventual game-winner.
Zaccagnini had another chance early in the second half to put the Huskies up two goals to none, but Okafor got in the way of her chance.
Midfielder Sophie McCarthy was fouled before the halfway mark of the second half, limping off the field and recording just 48 minutes of playing time.
Forward Brooke Walonis found a tight window to try and score a header goal in the top left corner, but Prawer jumped out to make the big save, keeping the score 1-0.
In the second half, Mazo returned to the match and came out hot. The graduate student from Bridgeport, Conn. fired a shot from deep that went off the crossbar. However, the crossbar was her friend on her second shot of the half, which went off the bottom of the crossbar and across the goal line for her third goal of the season.
Jones, a junior from Nottingham, England, has shown tons of potential to be a leader throughout the season, but tonight was a shining moment for her. She had three total shots tonight, including a shot deflected to Okafor, whose rebound chance ended up being saved, keeping the Pirates’ deficit at two goals.
Okafor, along with Zaccagnini, co-led the team in shots with four each, as the Huskies outshot Seton Hall 16-5.
UConn goalkeeper Kaitlyn Mahoney earned her 11th shutout of the season. The senior from Manorville, N.Y. made two saves in the 2-0 victory.
Seton Hall did not have possession of the ball often, with most of the second half staying in the Huskies’ attacking zone. To make matters worse, the Pirates had two yellow cards, one on forward Adria Kitzinger and the other on defender Chiara Pucci, issued late in the second half.
UConn stays undefeated against Seton Hall, with a perfect 15-0 record dating back to 1995. After a rough start on the road, the Huskies ended the regular season on a five-game unbeaten streak as the away team.
The Huskies are now locked as the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament as Xavier shut out Marquette to clinch the No. 2 seed. UConn will host a first-round matchup on Sunday at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, with the opponent yet to be determined.
As of writing, the Pirates are waiting on the outcome of the DePaul – St. John’s match, in hopes of keeping their season alive.
Once the matchups are set, UConn will be on the hunt for their first NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years. Connecticut has not won a conference tournament title since 2016 and have not won the Big East Tournament since 2004.