By Kyle Constable, Staff Writer
A second-half fireworks show negated a quiet start as UConn women’s soccer fell to Boston College 2-1 in their first preseason game at Morrone Stadium Monday night.
Two goals in a five-minute span from Boston College’s Hayley Dowd erased a 1-0 Huskies lead in the final 10 minutes.
Despite the loss, head coach Len Tsantiris felt confident about his team’s performance, especially given that many of the starters did not play a full 90 minutes.
“We used a lot of young kids,” Tsantiris said following the loss. “I wanted to see the younger kids, what they can do. Can they play?”
“They did fine. We competed.”
While the younger Huskies might have given away the lead, the veteran core that made up UConn’s 2014 squad powered them to a 1-0 lead.
Junior forward Rachel Hill broke the stalemate with a shot in 67th minute, driving past the defense and landing the ball in the far side of the net. Senior forward Samantha McGuire was credited with the assist in a pass that Hill described as “a great ball through, a perfect ball.”
“It makes it easy for me,” Hill added.
Coming off an American Athletic Conference tournament championship last year and a 14-5-5 record, everyone admits they feel the bar is set high for this season.
“This is just the beginning,” sophomore midfielder Danielle Gottwik said. “We definitely want to win the conference tournament again, but also the regular season.”
Tsantiris echoed the sentiment, but cautioned that the team cannot focus too much on the road ahead, instead focusing on the challenges in front of them now.
“We’ve got to prove ourselves every game,” Tsantiris said. “We’re not looking ahead. … Just play, fight and learn to win.”
Part of that process is developing better communication on the field. Gottwik believed the most significant weakness in Monday’s matchup was a lack of communication.
“You can never talk enough,” Gottwik said. “Just knowing where everyone is, what they’re doing, what your teammates need – you can never be ‘good enough’ at that.”
Shots did not come easy for either side in the first half, but Boston College had a pair of quality looks that just missed the net.
The offense opened up in the 20th minute when UConn sophomore forward Faith McCarthy launched a rocket from 30 yards at the goal. Boston College goalkeeper Leah Settipane’s diving save proved to be the only force powerful enough to deflect it.
The Eagles had arguably their best look of the night in the 26th minute, when Dowd’s open shot in the box broke wide on the near side.
In the 40th minute, UConn earned a free kick just outside the box, but it was quickly smothered by Boston College’s defense.
Looking for to take a lead going into the half, the Eagles tried to net a corner kick in the 45th minute, but the Huskies cleared it to keep it tied at halftime.
Tsantiris’ starters came out swinging in the second half, looking to score early. In the 53rd minute, McCarthy crossed to Hill right in front of net, but a diving Hill just missed heading it in on the far side.
Two corner kicks for the Huskies followed in the 56th and 57th minutes, but UConn once again failed to capitalize.
After 62 minutes, Tsantiris pulled starting goalkeeper junior Emily Armstrong, who was last year’s preseason conference goalkeeper of the year – and is a contender for the same recognition this fall. Tsantiris replaced her with senior Allison Saucier, who started 21 games in 2014.
Hill finally broke through with her goal in the 67th minute; but after underclassmen began replacing many of the starters in the final 15 minutes, Boston College was able to mount one last offensive effort.
The Eagles earned a free kick in the 81st minute from 35 yards out, but a beautiful chip into the box was jettisoned wide to the far side.
Boston College would bounce back from their misstep in the 82nd minute on an equalizer from Dowd, who drove into the box and scored at point blank range.
The crowd seemed content with a 1-1 tie, but the Eagles were not having any of it. Dowd navigated through the younger defenders once again and launched a shot from 10 yards out to give Boston College a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute.
Even though some lapses from the underclassmen cost the Huskies the game, their teammates had nothing but praise for the young players’ work ethic.
“The freshman coming in, they’re a really good group,” Hill said. “They’re really stepping up. They know that they need to go hard and change their level of play.”
UConn will play one more preseason game on Friday at 7 p.m. in Storrs – this time against the University of Montreal – before kicking off the regular season at home on Friday, Aug. 21 against Colgate.