It took four tries but Ray Reids Huskies notched their first American Athletic Conference victory. After three straight ties to open conference play, Colin Bradley drilled a penalty kick in the 16th minute of play, lifting UConn to a 1-0 win over visiting Rutgers Wednesday night in Storrs. It was a much needed win for a squad playing without both it’s captains. Preseason Goal Keeper of the Year, Andre Blake, was sidelined with an undisclosed shoulder area injury after an awkward somersault fall against UCF late in last Saturdays game, while Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Mamadou Doudou Diouf missed his fifth straight game, nursing a knee injury suffered at Syracuse in mid-September.
On the first conference win playing without both Blake and Diouf Reid said,”We’ve played really well in the three draws. Very well. We have a young group. It was a good win. Good performance by a lot of guys.” Adding, “We’ve got a great group of kids. A deep team. We have a tough team. All the guys stepped up. I’m very proud of these guys.”
The Huskies, ranked a high as third this season, tumbled out of the Top 25 (NSCAA) having gone 1-2-4 over the seven games prior to the win over Rutgers. Reid downplayed the significance of the national polling, and shrugged off suggestions it provides a barometer measuring UConn’s perceived strength on a national level.
“I’ not worried about them.”, Said Reid, ” I know where we are (As a team). We’ve gotta do well in the league.” Adding rankings, ” Are a popularity contest. If coaches don’t like me, they won’t vote for me. If they like you, they vote for you. It’s a bunch of guys voting for a teams they haven’t seen play. How can you do that? We’ll see where we are at the end (Of the season).”
UConn currently sits at 4-2-4 (1-0-3 AAC), and despite missing a huge piece in Mamadou, statistically they should be boasting a better overall record, outshooting opponents by almost 100 attempts. UConn dominated the Scarlet Knights offensively, much like they have done to many opponents this season, but, much like they have over the past three seasons, have struggled to find the net at crucial times. UConn controlled tempo and out shot Rutgers 22-11, but needed the Bradley penalty kick for the margin of victory .
With six regular season games left, four against conference opponents, UConn will need to post W’s for both seeding in the inaugural AAC tournament and the all important seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Reids club has enjoyed home cookin’ through the early rounds of the tournament over the last two seasons, but, if rankings are more than a popularity contest, a strong finish may be in order in the eyes of the Tournament Committee.
Through 10 games UConn has out shot their opponents 164-65…UConn has only nine goals total while yielding seven…Wednesday’s start was the first for red-shirt sophomore Jacob Wagmeister…Wagmeister had logged just over 20 minutes of playing time prior to Wednesday’s start…Freshman Cyle Larin leads the Huskies in scoring with seven pts(3 Goals)… Reid expects both Blake and Mamadou to be back in action Saturday when the Huskies host conference opponent Memphis at Joseph J Morrone Stadium at 7 p.m.
Fifteen games and the seesaw that has been the season for Len Tsantiris’ squad continues. UConn broke a two game skid routing the visiting Temple Owls, 3-1, Friday night in Storrs. UConn’s offense was in high gear as UConn scored three times and launched 28 shots on goal before Temple was credited with their first shot attempt early in the second half. It’s been feast or famine for the Lady Huskies out-shooting their opponents 276-157, but only holding a 21-16 edge in total goals. In a story similar to that of the men’s team, it’s the inability to capitalize on opportunities that have left the women three games over .500 at 9-6-0 (2-2-0 AAC).
Said Tsantiris, “We’ll get what we deserve. We need purpose when we step on the field. We are a good team. It’s the little things. We’ve got to concentrate (On the field). That’s the hardest thing to teach.”
Coming off a two game losing streak that took the Huskies to Central Florida and South Florida Tsantiris said, “(In Florida) Mentallly we were on vacation. We have a young team and it cost us. Over all we played well. We should’ve come out with one win at least.”
The Huskies have a six day lay off before hosting Cincinnati next Thursday. At this time of year most coaches would balk at a lengthy time between games, but Tsantiris looks at the lay-off as as chance to get healthy, “We’ve got some injuries. It’s why we took Rachel (Hill) out. Julie (Hubbard) for a while. (Gabrielle) Charno. They’re all feeling (Some aches and pains). Rest the a little bit and we should be ready to go.”
Tsantiris emphasized the need to take care of business at home with two of the four remaining regular season games at Storrs, “We’ve got to get the momentum (At home). We’ve got to get the points here.”
The four regular season games left are all against conference opponents. An inconsistent finish and a quick exit in the Conference Tournament may mean the Huskies third straight season without an NCAA appearance. For Tsantiris, coaching in his 33rd season, there are fewer chances ahead to reach college soccer’s promised land. .