Huskies drop to 0-2-0 with loss to No. 2 Stanford
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013 23:08
The University of Connecticut women’s soccer team took on Stanford on a warm Sunday night, and immediately felt the pressure from the No. 2 ranked Cardinal. The game started off in favor of the visitors as the midfield was controlled by Stanford, but despite the disadvantage in possession to start the match, the hosts were able to hold their own thanks to the immense work rate from forward Rachel Hill. Hill was instrumental in working to find space behind Stanford’s defense, but unfortunately it was to no avail. To start the match, both squads failed to retain the ball for lengthy periods of time, and forced plenty of turnovers in the center of the pitch.
Stanford’s forward Chioma Ubogagu and Sydney Payne worked well with one another to create space behind UConn’s defense; however, the high pressure on the ball from Gabriella Cuevas and Ruby Fee on the wings was superb, thus not allowing either to create loads of space to enhance scoring chances. With Stanford sitting three in their back-line, UConn’s Hill was able to create with midfielder Riley Houle in a few one-two situations, which either resulted in loss of possession or a stray pass.
The visitors created the first chance of the evening as Ubogagu unleashed a shot from right outside the eighteen-yard box in the ninth minute, which was saved well by UConn goalie, Emily Armstrong. The midfield battlefield continued in the early stages of the match. When Rachel Hill was taken down while chasing a through ball the referee allowed the physical flow to the match. On the other side of the ball, it was Stanford’s midfielder Payne who controlled the midfield both from an attacking and defensive perspective, challenging Devin Prendergast and combining with Alex Doll and forward Courtney Verloo.
The level of competition definitely improved from Friday night’s 2-3 heartbreak when Stanford came to town. The first half continued on with Stanford’s pressure amounting slowly with the increasing amount of corners and their excellent wide play, an area in which UConn was lacking progression. On defense, Prendergast’s last minute tackles against Payne allowed the hosts to keep the scoreline level. Stanford continued to tip-toe the sideline and in particular pressuring the right flank yet, Ruby Fee was equal to the task on defender.
UConn seemed to be shrinking the field a bit too much by moving forward, with their wings pinching into the center of the park often. Samantha McGuire and Miranda Tarpey needed to spread the ball a bit wider much like Stanford was doing, to be a bit more effective. That being said, the lack of attacking prowess in UConn’s game cost them in the 35th minute when Siobhan Cox’s brilliant out-swinging cross found the head of Taylor Uhl which left Armstrong stranded. As UConn fell behind late in the first half, they immediately flipped the 38th minute off a resulting corner kick - McGuire’s header went over the bar as she was unable to keep the ball on target.
In the second half, UConn drastically changed their approach, taking it to Stanford. Ubogagu created early pressure with a cross that was collected comfortably by Armstrong; however, UConn was much more patient in the final third contributing for some tense moments for goalkeeper Emily Oliver. Houle’s midfield presence was felt in the second half as she held up the ball superbly and worked her way out of situations where defenders quickly closed on her. She constantly waited for the rest of her midfield to join the attack thus allowing Hubbard and Hill to wreak havoc on the Cardinal defense. About 20 minutes into the second half, UConn upped the pressured as Fee and Gabrielle Charno joined the attack with a few short and crisp passes, once again involving freshman Hill, in the middle of nearly every attacking move.
Jennifer Skogerboe also played a solid match in the midfield, alongside Liana Hinds who contributed quality minutes entering off the bench. However, UConn continued to settle for shots from a distance, and sixteen minutes into the second half another shot skied over the bar. With the crowd urging the Huskies forward, Stanford underwent a few tense moments of dire clearances from the sea of black jerseys in their own box. The final ball, however, was not there for UConn. As the score line would hold 1-0 in favor of the Cardinals, coach Len Tsantiris noted the impact of freshman forward Rachel Hill. Tsantiris indicated that “She played good, she is very high tempo, and she works and keeps the ball. She’s young and has to grow. I see very good things from her.”
As Hill and the rest of the young women’s squad looks to rebound from a losing start to their season, the UConn coach noted the spacing in the midfield was a bit cramped in the first half. Tsantiris noted “We talked about that, we’re not really working the two in the back, we’re not working well together and supporting the ball up to the forwards. They [Stanford] wanted to slow our game. We talked at halftime and you know, they are a good team.” And despite the resurgent hosts working towards the equalizer on Sunday evening, it wouldn’t come. If Connecticut can uphold 90 minutes of pressure, the outcome will be a different story.