Column: The real show Saturday night is on campus
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 00:09
Saturday night there will be two big UConn games fans may look to choose from. Both teams will be looking to avoid a third straight regular season loss and both will receive a strong challenge in trying to do so.
25 miles off campus in East Hartford, the UConn football team will be taking on the visiting Michigan Wolverines for a highly anticipated regionally televised event. Rentschler Field is expected to have its biggest crowd in its 10-year existence, bringing in extra bleachers for the overflow of fans.
But back on campus, tucked in behind the baseball fields and football training facilities, there will be another game. Some different Huskies, the UConn men’s soccer team, will be responding to challenges of their own, and it just may help define the season and the legacy of their latest chapter.
The Huskies will host the No. 10 St. Louis University Billikens Saturday night for another competitive match to continue the first half of their tough regular season. But instead of rolling in with momentum after beating some lesser teams like these Huskies are used to, UConn may be stumbling a bit more into this one.
Why? Well, when you haven’t lost a regular season match on your home turf in four years, it can be a pretty humbling experience. And when you haven’t lost two regular season games in a row for almost five years, it can be downright demoralizing.
This is what is facing the UConn men’s soccer team that entered regular season play this year in the Top 10 of every major national ranking in the country and made it as high as No. 3 in the NSCAA rankings following two straight 1-0 wins to start the season.
But after a 1-0 home loss to Bradley Saturday night and a 1-0 loss at Syracuse on Tuesday, UConn is facing the possibility of losing three straight regular season matches for the first time since 1997.
Years of excellence have made UConn fans unfamiliar to defeat and records like the 2-2-1 the Huskies are sporting now. And with an All-American-caliber goalkeeper and one of the most consistently prolific offenses in the country, why should they be used to it?
But as tough as it may be, these challenges are what really separate the two Husky teams that will be taking their respective fields Saturday night.
It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the UConn football team has underperformed in the past few seasons, falling short of an even record in 2011 and 2012 before starting this season 0-2. But the story of the UConn men’s soccer team over the past years–and decades–has been responding to challenges and roadblocks like they are facing right now.
Take the last time men’s soccer lost three straight regular season matches in 1997. The Huskies fell to Villanova, Georgetown, and West Virginia in consecutive road matches to go to 2-5-2. What came next? The Huskies went 9-1-1 over their last 11 games to finish with a respectable record and make the Big East Tournament.
Obviously, 16 years later, it is a very different Husky team looking to take the field Saturday night. There are new faces, new names, but the attitude will be the same.
The masses may be in East Hartford Saturday night cheering on as the football team hopefully puts up a fight against No. 15 Michigan, but there will undoubtedly be another real show on campus when the men’s soccer team takes the field.
Is a win guaranteed? Obviously not, but a defining moment should be. Even if there aren’t 42,000 fans to witness it.