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.

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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.

 

Men’s Lacrosse: Huskies reach new heights in 50th season

By Dan Madigan, Associate Sports Editor

Throughout its existence, the UConn men’s lacrosse program has had to deal with its fair share of adversity. Since losing recognition as a Division I program in the 1980s, the men’s lacrosse program has operated as a club sport, playing their home games at UConn’s Depot Campus.

As the program celebrated its 50th season this year, the team was able to reach new heights despite significant obstacles.

“The culture of UConn lacrosse has always been extremely hard working and just get it done, find a way to get it done,” senior captain and first team All-American Pierce Bushby said.

Bushby and the Huskies did just that this season, compiling a 6-7 record in the regular season and a 2-3 record in the Pioneer College Lacrosse League with 25 new members. After their regular season, UConn entered the PCLL tournament as the No. 3 seed.

In the first round of the PCLL tournament, UConn took down No. 2 seed Northeastern 7-6. John Takita scored a hat trick and assisted on two other goals for UConn as they held onto a one-goal victory. Northeastern nearly scored to send the game into overtime with just seconds remaining, but senior goaltender Brendan Helberg made the last of his 16 saves to send UConn to the championship game.

With the win, the Huskies squared off against No. 1 seed New Hampshire in the PCLL championship game and defeated the Wildcats 9-2. Arthur Sullivan and Jason Campbell each had two goals for the Huskies, and Helberg made 22 saves to secure the program’s first-ever PCLL conference championship and a berth in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association tournament.

The historic win also served as a barometer for the improvement of the team since the regular season, where the Huskies lost to both their conference tournament opponents in the regular season by a score of 20-9.

“I think that was really just an effect of what our coaching did the entire year, to really build us up and really peak during the playoffs, which is what the best teams do,” Bushby said. “We lost to those teams in the regular season, we’d seen what they had, and we knew that we still had a lot we could build up to.”

The Huskies’ noticeable improvement helped buoy confidence as they entered the MCLA tournament as No. 15 seed, where they would take No. 2-seeded Arizona State.

Stiffer competition wasn’t the only problem the Huskies would encounter at Nationals. Simply getting there would be a battle in itself.

While the team had enough funding from the UConn Club Sports program for most of the team to fly out to Southern California, there weren’t enough funds for the entire team to make the trip.

In order to prevent leaving some teammates behind, the team sent out a newsletter to all of the program’s alumni, and set up a GoFundMe page for other contributions. The GoFundMe page was a huge success, raising over $5,500 from friends, family, and young alumni to offset costs and send every team member to California.

“It wouldn’t have been right if all the guys that stuck it out through the season, even some of the guys that weren’t playing but cheered us on the sidelines and been there the entire season if we just said ‘we can’t quite take you because we don’t have the money,’” Bushby said. “We knew that that was going to be our main goal, to bring everybody on the trip.”

Once the team arrived in California, the team quickly prepared for its inaugural MCLA appearance against Arizona State. UConn dug itself into an early 6-1 hole after the first quarter and was unable to come back, losing to the Sun Devils 15-5. Despite being knocked out of the MCLA tournament, the Huskies still had one last game to play before heading back home, squaring off against No. 16 Purdue in the consolation game.

“We knew there wasn’t any championship to be won if we did beat Purdue, but we looked at it as a pride game,” Bushby said. “We wanted to come back to Connecticut with a W and send the seniors off right.”

UConn did just that against the Boilermakers, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to pull out a 6-3 win and finish their inaugural MCLA appearance with a 1-1 record.

Despite the early exit in the MCLA tournament, the experience that the team has collected throughout this season’s miracle run has helped the program take another big step in becoming an elite team in college club lacrosse.

“I think this season changed the culture of UConn lacrosse,” Bushby said. “We went out to nationals, and the kids on our team got a taste for it, and I think they’re hungry and I think its’s going to drive them in the offseason to get better.”

 

Women’s Lacrosse: Huskies fall to Florida in Big East Championship

The UConn women’s lacrosse team reached new heights this season but their miracle run came to an end against Florida in the Big East Championship on Saturday.

The Huskies upset Florida 11-10 on April 18 but couldn’t repeat the feat in the second meeting, falling 20-6 to the No. 1 seed Gators.

Senior Midfielder Nora Barry led the charge out of the gate for the Gators, collecting a hat trick in the first four minutes of the match. Barry was one of three Gators to score three goals or more. The 20 allowed goals were a season high for the Huskies. It was an uncharacteristic performance for a UConn defense ranked second in the Big East for goals against.

“We definitely didn’t play our best today. Which against a team like Florida you have to come out strong and stay strong for the full 60 minutes,” head coach Katie Woods said.

Junior Katherine Finkelston said after the semi-finals that she expected the rematch to be a bloodbath and the game lived up the billing.

Emotions were running high from the initial draw and the animosity between these two teams was obvious as eight yellow cards were handed out in the first half alone.

“We can’t have a game like that.” Said Woods. “That’s not in our sport. That’s not in our philosophy of how we coach our players and it’s dangerous. I think we got wrapped up in the emotion and though we settled it down at halftime, that’s not how the game is supposed to be played. “

The physicality was such a factor in the first half that the officials talked to the captains of both teams at halftime to try to regain some control over the game.

Out of the break, Alyson Fazio gave UConn the first goal of the second half on a free position attempt after Florida’s Sam Darcangelo was called for a foul. However, any hopes of another miraculous comeback were quickly put to rest after Florida rattled off 12 unanswered goals to thoroughly put the game out of reach.

UConn simply had no answer for Florida down the stretch and were outshot 20-3 in the second half. Eight different Gators contributed goals in the dominant offensive performance, with seven contributing multiple scores.

Despite the bitter end to the season, Woods believes there are still some positives to move forward with.

“I don’t want us to ever hang our heads. We can be upset with what happened today but I think with us it’s understanding and really seeing much we’ve grown and how good we played in different situations to get us here… It was exciting to go the farthest we’ve ever gotten in terms of our conference tournament but for our younger players it was a good opportunity to gain a lot of experience.”

Though UConn’s season is not technically over, they will have to hope on the outside they chance they did enough to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. If this is the end of the road for the Huskies, they will finish with an 11-8 record and a nearly perfect record at home, with their one loss coming in the Big East Championship.

 

Football: McQuillan Arrested After Weekend Altercation

UConn football tight end Sean McQuillan was arrested April 17 and charged with assault in the second degree and disorderly conduct, according to a UConn police report.

UConn Police responded to the Celeron Square Apartment complex for a reported fight in progress. Upon investigation, it was determined that McQuillan had assaulted another individual, resulting in significant facial injuries to the victim, according to the police report.

According to a source, it was McQuillan’s roommate whom he assaulted.

McQuillan was released on a $500 non-surety bond and his court date was April 20.

“The athletic department is aware of the situation and we will wait for the judicial process to take its full course. In the meantime, Sean has a responsibility to finish out the semester academically,” Mike Enright, Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Communications, said.

During the 2014 season, McQuillan started 11 games for the Huskies. He caught 16 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, including a 21-yard score against Army Nov. 8.

Over his career, McQuillan has 41 receptions for 354 yards and two touchdowns. McQuillan redshirted in 2011 and will play his last season as a redshirt senior in 2015.

UConn Will Face A Different Notre Dame Team With Brianna Turner in the Lineup

TAMPA, Fla. — When Notre Dame played UConn in December, the Irish were missing a piece. The last piece of the complicated puzzle needed to beat UConn was not on the floor.

Two things went well for the Irish back on Dec. 6. They received a career-high 31 points from All-American Jewell Loyd, and they had a 10-point lead over the Huskies early in the first half. But when they were down by 10, the Huskies ramped it up and took it to a limited Notre Dame team.

UConn turned to redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck to lead them back, and the Irish could not stop her. Tuck scored a career-high 25 points to lead UConn past Notre Dame 76-58.

The missing piece to the puzzle was freshman Brianna Turner.

Turner, the No. 2 player on ESPN’s 2014 HoopGurlz recruiting rankings, missed the first meeting against the Huskies earlier in the season due to a right-shoulder injury.

“It definitely was frustrating not being out there with my team, but I get the opportunity tomorrow night, thankfully,” Turner said.

Turner is fully healthy now, and she’s playing at an exceptionally high level. As of March 31, she led the nation in field goal percentage (67 percent) and she has vamped up her play in the NCAA tournament. In five games played in the tournament, she has averaged 13.4 points per game to go along with eight rebounds.

“She’s our leading rebounder and one of our top three scorers so I think she makes a difference in our team at the defensive end with her rebounding, her presence of shot blocking and the way she can run the floor,” McGraw said. “I think that she adds a lot to our team.”

In the first meeting, UConn out-rebounded Notre Dame 52-34 and held the Irish to their lowest shooting percentage all season (31 percent). The Huskies also scored 44 points in the paint, easily getting to the paint without Turner’s 6-foot-3-inch frame in the way.

“She impacts that game in a way that the rest of their post players can’t,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “She impacts the game on the defensive end with her athletic ability and her length the way some of the other post players cant.”

With Turner and 6-foot-3-inch forward Taya Reimer inside, the battle in the paint is going to be the biggest difference from the first matchup.

“I think they just have a better inside presence and they’re a little more balanced when she’s playing,” Tuck said. “And I think that now it’s a little more — especially in the post — matched.

Turner said she thought that Notre Dame would end up facing UConn again, and it is fitting that it’s the last game of the season that she will have a chance to face them for the first time.

“They’re such a great team and they’ve had so much success this season so I figured we were going to meet again in the tournament, and of course it’s in the national championship game,” Turner said.

Men’s Basketball: Freshman Lubin to Transfer from UConn

UConn men’s basketball forward Rakim Lubin is transferring, his mother announced on Twitter Monday afternoon.

“We have officially opened Rocks recruiting for 2015-2016,” Sabrina Lubin tweeted. “I love the coaches, team, staff n Huskie fans but we must move on.”

She also mentioned that they will be looking at other Division I schools.

A friend of Lubin’s said the freshman forward was unhappy with his playing time when he was playing well.

Lubin appeared in 24 games for the Huskies, averaging 6.5 minutes per game. The 6-foot-8-inch forward from Miami averaged one point and 1.2 rebounds per game.

His playing time did increase in March, when he took on a big role in the American Athletic Conference tournament. With Kentan Facey sidelined by a concussion, Lubin played 10.25 minutes per game during the four-game tournament in Hartford, helping UConn to the championship game.

With Lubin transferring, UConn has 11 scholarship players for next season, including incoming freshmen Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch.

UConn has yet to comment on Lubin’s decision.