In their return to the Big East tournament, UConn rose to the occasion in round one. Taking on the St. John’s Red Storm for the second time this year, the Huskies went into Queens with hopes of keeping their season alive.
The teams previously met in mid-September. UConn’s Scott Testori got the scoring started then, and it was none other than Testori who started the scoring here as well. With UConn set up in the box for the corner, Kieran Chandler’s pass almost magically found Testori for the header. Despite an all-out effort from St. John’s goalie Alec McLachlan, the ball got past his outstretched arms to put the Huskies in front in just the 25th minute. The goal was Testori’s eighth of the year and continued his pure dominance on the pitch this season in another clutch moment.
The Johnnies got themselves right back into it after the half. In UConn territory, the Red Storm went onto the attack. Antek Sienkiel passed to Macoumba Ba, who set up Lenny Cidolit perfectly for the easy goal. In just the 47th minute, the teams were tied at one.
No better chance came for either side in regulation than with St. John’s Thomas Lamaille in the 86th minute. With time winding down, Lamaille found an opening down the side of the pitch. Having just the keeper to beat, he aimed for the far post and ripped a bullet of a shot that nearly went in. The shot narrowly missed the goalpost and would’ve ultimately ended the Huskies season, but instead kept it alive and sent the game into overtime.
In the first overtime period, the teams traded a few shots each but couldn’t capture the advantage, calling for a second overtime period.
Neither team was able to find any separation until a ball chipped by UConn’s Pierce Bateson led to a mad dash on the Red Storm’s side of the field. UConn’s Eli Conway sprinted downfield, and while St. John’s Ignacio Antequera
–Sanchez tried to head the ball to his goalie, Conway kicked it past him. All alone in front of the net, Conway tapped it in for the go-ahead score. In the 102nd minute, the goal gave UConn their first lead of the game since the 47th–
One thing to highlight is the performance of senior goalkeeper Kyle Briere. His first career start came at a crucial time for the team with regular starter Jayden Hibbert out, and he stepped up. Briere played all 110 minutes of the match, making six saves, and was a major reason that the Huskies will be moving on.
Head coach Chris Gbandi spoke highly of Briere after the game, saying, “I’m just so proud of Kyle […] He’s led this group for so many years and for him to get this opportunity and make the most of it, I think that says a lot about him as a player and just the character he has.”
Following his first career start and win, Briere said, “When you’re on a team, and when you’re on this family, you can’t stop working. These guys are worth fighting for. […] I finally got my chance, and those guys helped me through it.”
Looking forward at the rest of the playoff picture, Georgetown, Xavier and Providence round out the teams left in the tournament. Xavier and Providence are set to face off on Thursday at 4 p.m. with UConn and Georgetown slated to meet after. In their prior matchup this season, the Hoyas bested the Huskies with a stellar second half performance. UConn was able to keep Georgetown scoreless through the first half, but the flood gates opened in the second. Just six minutes after the break, Maximus Jennings broke into the scoring column. Teammate Marlon Tabora scored two more to build the Hoyas’ lead and hand UConn the loss. The Huskies are hoping to replicate their first half efforts against Georgetown later this week and steal a win from an excellent opponent.
UConn takes on Georgetown this Thursday in Boyds, Maryland at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. but will wait for the conclusion of the Xavier/Providence game. Fans can catch all the action online with the BIG EAST Digital Network.