Women’s Soccer: Huskies drop preseason opener to Boston College

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?”

His assessment?

“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.


UConn Highlights from 2015 American Kickoff

Newport, R.I.— The American Athletic Conference kicked off the 2015-16 football season Tuesday with its third annual Media Day. To begin the day, the conference released the preseason media poll, where Cincinnati received 22 of a possible 30 votes to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game.

The Bearcats were also the favorites to win the East division, while Memphis beat out Houston and Navy as the West division favorite. UConn was picked to finish last in the East division. This season marks the first year with two divisions due to the addition of Navy as a football-only member of the American.

Diaco has high hopes for new season

Despite being predicted to finish last in the conference, UConn football head coach Bob Diaco has high hopes for his second season with the Huskies.

“I didn’t read it. I don’t care. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing. Zero,” Diaco said of the media poll. “Everything is going to be done better at a higher level.”

Diaco has taken the positives away from last year’s 2-10 season and used them as a foundation to build off of as the Huskies take on one of the 25 hardest schedules in the country. Even with the difficult schedule, Diaco believes his team is talented enough to compete with the best in the country.

“We’re going to win every game,” Diaco said. “We’re going to play as one of the four teams in the playoffs and win a national championship. And how are we going to do it? We’re going to focus on today.”

Big Expectations for wide receiver Noel Thomas

Coming off a 26-catch, four-touchdown season, junior Noel Thomas comes into the 2015 season as the projected No. 1 receiver. After working hard in the offseason, the Norwalk, Connecticut native seems to be on the verge of a breakout season.

“I’ve watched this guy. This guy is making an investment, and I’ve been around great receivers and he looks like one of them,” Diaco said of Thomas. “If he’s not one of the most dominant wide receivers in the country, then shame on him.”

The Huskies will need a strong season from Thomas to fill the void of Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx, who finished first and second respectively in receptions last year. Dhameer Bradley and tight ends Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom also figure to be integral parts of UConn’s passing game.

Adams, Melifonwu look to lead UConn defense

The UConn defense was a bright spot for the Huskies last season, and this year looks to be no different even with the loss of former captain and current Dallas Cowboy Byron Jones.

Last season, redshirt senior Andrew Adams and redshirt junior Obi Melifonwu were major contributors in a UConn defense that ranked No. 36 in the country in passing yards allowed per game.

“We’ve been together for three years. Our chemistry is unreal. We hang out together off the field…knowing that he has my back and I have his back, that goes a long way,” Adams said about his relationship with Melifonwu. “We just look to improve from last year and be one of the best safety duos in the country.”

Adams and Melifonwu combined for 171 tackles last season, with Adams adding a team-high four interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown. Melifonwu successfully broke up three passes last season, good for second on the team amongst returning players.

“The safeties are the best tandem in the country,” Diaco said. “Tell me a better one.”


Shirreffs leads quarterback battle

Heading into the first practices of fall, North Carolina State transfer Bryant Shirreffs has an early lead in the race to become UConn’s starting quarterback. After a strong showing during the spring season, the job will be Shirreffs to lose once practice start this Thursday.

“Bryant’s going to run predominantly with that one offense,” Diaco said. “Everybody is going to get a chance to their wears, and we’re going to play the best players.”

Tim Boyle and junior college transfer Garrett Anderson figure to be the most likely challengers to Shirreffs. Freshmen Tyler Davis and Brandon Bisack are in the mix as well.

Boyle threw one touchdown and three interceptions last season in nine games for the Huskies and has the size and skill to pry the job away from Shirreffs with strong showings in practice. Anderson’s experience at the junior-college level could give him an edge as well, either as a starter or the No. 2 slot.

Diaco will name the starter two weeks before the Sept. 3 season opener against Villanova.

Civil Conflict

One of the biggest stories in the American Athletic Conference this offseason was the Civil Conflict trophy, which was created by Diaco to be awarded to the winner of the Central Florida-UConn game. After taking the internet by storm, Diaco elaborated on the creation of the Civil Conflict trophy and its intentions.

“That was created out of respect for their program and coaches,” Diaco said. “The targeting of that program was the beginning for our team…this is a great program. Coach O’Leary runs a program the way I love a football program to be run, and he’s created one of the best football programs in the country and the best in our conference.”

After defeating UCF 37-29 at Rentschler Field last season, Diaco and the Huskies will take the Civil Conflict trophy down to Orlando to take on the Knights Oct. 10.


DC Quick Hits – July 27, 2015

Here are the latest happenings in UConn sports:

Shabazz Napier traded to the Orlando Magic

Yahoo! Sports reports that two-time national champion Shabazz Napier was traded from the Miami Heat to the Orlando Magic over the weekend in exchange for a protected second round pick. Napier averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 assists in 51 games in his rookie season with Heat and will likely compete with newly-signed C.J. Watson to be Orlando’s first guard off the bench.

Former UConn soccer star Cyle Larin scores a hat trick against New York City FC on Sunday

Cyle Larin did his best to keep Orlando City in Sunday’s match against New York. In a high scoring affair in which New York edged out Orlando 5-3, Larin scored in the 50th, 61st and 85th minute. Unfortunately for Orlando, it wasn’t enough.

Larin now has nine goals in his rookie campaign. His three goals Sunday completed his first career hat trick.

Maya Moore makes a fan’s wish come true

Former UConn standout Maya Moore visits 14-year-old Ariya Smith as part of the “My Wish” series on SportsCenter. Smith, who has systemic lupus, idolizes Moore, and the two got to meet and shoot around thanks to ESPN and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Moore wins WNBA All-Star MVP honors at Mohegan Sun on Saturday

Five players with UConn ties put together strong showings in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Sue Bird and Maya Moore led the West team to a 117-112 victory over the East thanks to 30 points from Moore, the game’s MVP. Tina Charles scored 13 points in 15 minutes for the East and rookie Stefanie Dolson scored four points in her All-Star game debut. Elena Della Donne, who originally committed to UConn before transferring to Delaware, scored 16 points as starter for the East.


Days of Our Lives for Dudes

It was a new low point of the many in this inane life I chose watching grown men play games.

Short on sleep and long on methamphetamines coffee, my eyes and attention were one with Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter account as I waited in suspense for another adult to choose his place of work .

With each mounting clue of Lebron James’ return to Cleveland, I, who had firmly believed he would return to Miami for at least one more season, sunk deeper and deeper into this warped dopamine drip I had entered.

I was no better than a junkie waiting in a back alley to see if his dealer would come through or not. Is Woj gonna get me the stuff? Maybe I should try Marc Stein? What about Brian Windhorst?

I wasn’t even any better than every girl I’ve ever mocked for watching any asinine reality TV series. This was The Bachelorette and I was waiting to see which team would get the final rose.

In between asking Google how much caffeine would kill a 200-pound man and misplacing my frustration onto my poor friends and poorer mother, I removed myself from the insanity to allow for some scarce self-reflection.

This is goddamn ridiculous. How did this become to be?

In only a couple of days, I had spent more time and received more enjoyment from monitoring NBA reporters’ timelines for tweets about exotic car transportation trucks and people pilgrimaging to a man’s house than I had watching the first and second rounds of the NBA playoffs.

None of it nearly resembled the sports stories my grandpa passed onto me of Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 All-Star game.

What I had only recently and reluctantly began to accept had become hugely evident in that moment: the transaction of sports had superseded the action.

Fans, myself included, have grown to care more about “what team is acquiring which player” than the actual game action in which those moves will make any difference.

For all the conversation about transactions this past week, only one move warranted this level of intrigue and significantly changed the power structure of the league —  LaMarcus Aldridge signing with the San Antonio Death Star.

Okay, Demare Carrol (who I like, actually) signed with the Raptors. Cool. They have a 22% better chance of advancing to the second round.

Okay, Greg Monroe signed with the Bucks? Milwaukee’s 2015-16 ceiling shot way up from 47 wins to 52.

The inconsequence of these signings only augments my curiosity for this shift, the explanation for which I believe is two-fold:

1. The simulated roster construction of fantasy sports has made an increasing number of fans attracted to transactions from belief that they could manage a roster better than many general managers.

After all, coaches and front office executives make for much easier, relatable targets of downward social comparison than professional athletes.

Fan X sitting at home with Doritos crumbs falling from his face knows he can’t run a pick-and-roll in the NBA, but he has played enough NBA 2K franchise mode to know that giving Reggie Jackson 80 million dollars isn’t smart.

And more importantly…

2. If the core purpose of sports’ existence is to entertain, then let’s call the majority of free agency for what it truly is: male soap opera.

Reports about Player X leaving Team Y because he didn’t get enough attention from Player Z is every Kardashian episode and Star Magazine cover cloaked in the masculinity of sports and served to fans as episodes of a TV show I like to call “Days of Our Lives for Dudes.” (Yes, I know many women enjoy sports as well. Sorry ladies.)

The show’s latest and greatest episode bestowed us with the most spectacular story plot since KG said Melo’s wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios and then they almost fake fought.

For those who missed it here’s a synopsis of the DOOLFD episode:

DeAndre Jordan is an underappreciated housewife living in the shadow of her husband, who regularly lets DeAndre know when she doesn’t meet his standards by overcooking the roast or forgetting a signature on their tax-exempt forms.

Overcome with frustration, Mrs. Jordan eventually decides to leave her husband and kids in search of the validation her husband refuses to give her.

Lo and behold, Mrs. Jordan meets mistress Mark Cuban and his $80 million dollars at a bar, where he tells her that she is the prettiest girl there (and also that he thinks she can be a Shaq-esque centerpiece of the Dallas offense..what?).

Cuban and Jordan have a week-long bedroom escapade until her husband(s) Blake Griffin and  Chris Paul suddenly realize how much they need their wife and proceed to go crazy trying to win her back.

The episode climaxes as grenades of banana emojis are slung between her husbands and mistresses, whereupon Doc Rivers hops in a wagon which is tied to and lugged by Big Baby Davis from California to Texas, where they meet up with Chris Paul who paddled in on a banana boat.

In a showdown reminiscent of that in Anchorman, they confront a deranged Mark Cuban, who is carrying a trident for some reason, and a near-nude Chandler Parsons, who only seems to wear underwear when he’s not playing basketball.

Finally feeling the affection she longed from her husband, Jordan comes running back into his welcoming arms and 88 million dollars.

And of course the episode ended with Chris Broussard getting scorched for being bad at his job because that’s the way all these things should end.

Sports are entertainment; the less seriously they are taken, the more they can be enjoyed.

The more sports can resemble professional wrestling and the less I have to hear some graybeard bemoan a baseball player pimping his homerun trot, the better.

Nothing has made this clearer for me than Wednesday’s spectacular shit show.

Sometimes it’s okay to be more entertained by some soap opera than a Nets-Raptors first round playoff series.

DeAndre Jordan spurning the Mavericks and speculation about exotic car transportation trucks leaving LeBron’s house provided more  “what the fuck is about to happen next?!” moments than almost any game ever could.

Wednesday night reminded me that I want with my sports more banana emojis and and drunk Mark Cuban stories and Paul Pierce’s terrible old person Twitter ineptness (YOU’RE A GOD DAMN RED BLOODED AMERICAN LEARN HOW TO TWEET AN EMOJI) and ridiculous hot sports radio takes and more ridiculous freakout videos from (un)masked fans and NBA players quoting Edgar Allen Poe and banana emojis.

(Really I just wanted JR Smith to jump in with an eggplant emoji but WHATEVER JR I didn’t want the pipe anyway.)

None of this nearly resembles the stories our grandfathers proudly recounted.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes the best sports stories have nothing to do with sports.

[100 emoji]

Men’s Basketball: Huskies release non-conference schedule

The UConn men’s basketball team released their 2015-16 non-conference schedule Tuesday afternoon.

After two exhibition games against Division II University of Tampa and University of New Haven, the Huskies will open the regular season at home against Maine Friday Nov. 13.

Following home games against New Hampshire and Furman, UConn heads to the Bahamas Nov. 25 for the Battle 4 Atlantis. Although the bracket has yet to be announced, the Huskies are a part of a competitive field that includes Syracuse, Michigan, Gonzaga, Texas, Texas A&M, Washington, and Charlotte.

On Dec. 2, UConn welcomes the first of their two in-state opponents when they take on Sacred Heart. Secondly, the Huskies will take on Central Connecticut at home Dec. 23. Last season, UConn defeated the Blue Devils 81-48.

Sandwiched between Sacred Heart and CCSU are two marquee matchups against Maryland (Dec. 8) and Ohio State (Dec. 12), as well as the Huskies’ first-ever meeting against UMass-Lowell on Dec. 20.

UConn’s game against Maryland will be a part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies did not play a game at the Garden last season for the first time in over 30 years.

The matchup versus Ohio State marks the first time the two schools will meet since the 1999 Final Four, where UConn defeated the Buckeyes 64-58 in the National Semifinals en route to their first NCAA Championship.

The Huskies travel to Texas Dec. 29 for their lone true road non-conference game against the Longhorns to wrap up the home-and-home series between the two schools. Last season, Texas defeated the Huskies 55-54 at Gampel Pavilion on a buzzer beating three-pointer from Jonathan Holmes.

UConn will wrap up their non-conference slate with a home game against former Big East foe Georgetown in their first matchup since the 2012-13 season.

The Huskies’ schedule will be completed when the American Athletic Conference announces the conference schedule later on this summer.

The Holy Trinity: How the Warriors redefined championship basketball

In my NBA Finals preview, I focused on Golden State’s lack of past postseason hardships as the reason why a faction of the public was reluctant to give them the respect the empirical data indicated they deserved.

At the time, however, I knew public doubt stemmed from a confluence of their inexperience as well as their many novel qualities.

NBA Champions, let alone possible dynasties, are not supposed to look like this.

A champion’s best player isn’t supposed to be a 6’3, 190 lb. point guard best known for perimeter shooting. That’s supposed to be a dominant big or historically great wing – Duncan, Jordan.

A champion’s second best player is not supposed to be a 6’7, 230 lb. power forward who actually plays center and is best known for defensive versatility and arrogance. That’s supposed to be an established compliment with a Hall of Fame pedigree – Pippen, Wade, Parker.

A champion’s coach isn’t supposed to be in his first year and readily admit to relying on a 28-year-old video coordinator  for a series-saving lineup move. That’s supposed to be an all-wise, grizzled pillar of stoicism – Auerbach, Jackson, Popovich.

A champion’s Finals MVP is not supposed to be yesteryear’s consolation free agency acquisition coming off the bench to occasionally slow down the series’ actual MVP – that’s a Hall of Famer as well.

Most sacrilegious of all, an NBA Champion isn’t supposed to pave their way by bombing more three’s than any other team in the postseason, often passing up open layups for the possibility of an extra point.

Golden State averaged 30.5 three-point attempts in 21 games this postseason. No other NBA champion in the last 10 years shot more than 22 per postseason game (2011 Dallas), and the same past ten champions shot a composite average of 19.6 three’s per game, 35 percent less than the Warriors.

It’s no secret that many people in and around the league turned their nose up at the idea of a Warriors championship contradicting the “old way of doing things” and becoming a large milestone in the league’s analytic-optimization.

You can hear anti-analytics crusaders like Charles Barkley say it now, “live by the three, die by the three,” while bemoaning the perimeter-focused Warriors’ lack of inside scoring and toughness.

“There’s this supposed war between the purity of basketball and the 3-point line,” Celtics GM Danny Ainge told ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh recently.

“The old-time coaches want to control everything, and the three just doesn’t fit into that philosophy,” Mike D’Antoni, one of the league’s first three-point advocates, added.

(Old dudes wanting to keep status quo because that’s the way things have always been done.. doesn’t sound familiar.)

The notion that the Warriors needed to win a championship to validate the application of analytics in basketball is inherently ridiculous, as both the Heat and Spurs were also firm believers in analytics and constructed their championship rosters accordingly.

Keep in mind that when anybody refers to “analytics,” it usually doesn’t encompass anything more complicated than an elementary math lesson. If Player A shoots 100 three’s at a league average 35 percent, and Player B shoots 100 two’s at league average 45 percent, Player A wins by 15 points.

This is not to say that hoisting as many three’s as possible is suddenly the only or best way to win a championship, as clearly every team doesn’t has comparable backcourt shooting and talent.

However, I think Golden State’s jump from 54 wins to 83 wins upon Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson (who tried to mold an offense that mirrored one from the mid-90’s) is yet another case study in how transformative the 3-point shot has become.

From the start, Kerr became hellbent on maximizing his team’s success at the 3-point line, while doing everything possible to take the same away from opponents.

After refusing to relinquish Thompson in a trade to acquire Kevin Love (dissenting from consensus opinion at the time), Kerr quickly abandoned Jackson’s larger, more traditional starting lineup of Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Lee-Bogut, and opted to start smaller Green in place of Lee, and Barnes, a better perimeter shooter, in place of Iguodala.

The smaller lineup provided more spacing and shooting offensively while also allowing them to switch on most pick-and-rolls defensively with three versatile wing-defenders on the floor, thus allowing opposing shooters less space coming off screens.

The five-man unit (Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Green-Bogut) dominated on both ends, leading all of Golden State’s lineups in regular season plus/minus (+329 in 813 minutes).

Here’s the kicker: Marc Jackson did not play those five players together for a single minute during the 2013-14 regular season.

So much for stubbornly keeping bigger lineups.

The Finals match-up we just witnessed embodied much of the contrast between the old-school ideal that one great player quarterbacks his team come hell or high water, and a analytically-optimized, multi-pronged attack.

While Golden State used ball movement and a fast pace to maximize their open three’s,  Cleveland, to much success, essentially turned into Stanford football playing Oregon and grinded the pace down to take away Golden State’s extra offensive possessions, while creating their own by playing big and pounding the hell out of the offensive boards.

Of course, the two teams’ talent and health disparity nulled any potential evidence of the effectiveness of either, as Golden State would have beaten the broken Cavs playing any style once Kyrie Irving exited.

But if nothing else, the match-up provided a distinct before-and-after of how successful NBA offenses have evolved to function.

It’s become near impossible to win four Finals games by walking the ball up, getting tough inside the paint and hoping one guy can create in isolation.

The Warriors are the future and what nearly every NBA general manager is trying to build: a team that kicks ass on both ends of the floor.. generates additional possessions by playing at a fast pace.. is offensively predicated on ball movement and creating efficient layups and open three’s.. and is defensively predicated on an abundance of athletic wings that can guard multiple positions and switch almost any pick-and-roll.

Unconventional is the new conventional.

“Live by the three, die by the three.”

It’s June, and the Warriors are not only still living, they have breathed life into basketball’s future.   

Live by the three or die.

Baseball: Three Huskies Taken in MLB Draft

By Dan Madigan, Associate Sports Editor

Three members of the UConn baseball team were selected within 40 picks of one another on the third day of the 2015 MLB Draft.

Catcher Max McDowell was the first Husky off the board, taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round and 391st overall. Second baseman Vinny Siena was taken with the 419th pick in the 14th round by the New York Mets, followed by senior ace Carson Cross, who went to the St. Louis Cardinals 12 picks later at No. 431.

The three selections give UConn baseball a total of 84 draftees in the program’s history.

McDowell finished the 2015 season hitting .286 with seven home runs and 39 RBI. The junior also lead the NCAA in sacrifice flies with 11. The North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania native boasts an impressive mix of power (12 career home runs) and solid defense, throwing out 19 baserunners in his last two years.

Siena bounced back from a sophomore slump to turn in a spectacular junior season, leading the Huskies with a .364 batting average and 54 RBI while adding seven home runs. Siena also recorded a hit in 54 of the Huskies’ 60 games this season, and was named the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) Player of the Year for 2015.

As juniors, McDowell and Siena can decide whether to sign with their respective professional teams or return to Storrs for their senior season.

After missing the entire season in 2014 because of shoulder surgery, Cross completed a magnificent senior season in 2015 which earned him Third Team All-American honors by Louisville Slugger and Pitcher of the Year by the American Athletic Conference and NEIBA.

Cross finished his senior season with a 10-2 record while sporting a 2.29 ERA. He also recorded 108 strikeouts and 25 walks in 106 innings pitched.

The redshirt senior tri-captain finished his UConn career with the fourth most strikeouts in school history (222) and the fourth most wins in program history (22). He also is in the Top-10 in innings pitched (254).