In the American Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals on Friday night, the UConn women’s soccer team took down the USF Bulls, 2-0. Like they have for most of the season, Rachel Hill and Stephanie Ribeiro each scored a goal to help their team earn a trip to the conference finals.
It was an even match from the start, with both teams struggling to get any shots on target. Maddie Damm, the only senior on the team that was not given a conference honor, played with a vengeance early on. She nearly assisted Stephanie Ribeiro and just missed a goal of her own.
USF had a pair of breakaways, both of which needed big saves from Tori Patterson and Emily Armstrong, respectively. However, those would be the only chances that USF would have in the first half.
The scoring finally started in the 37 minute when Rachel Hill broke free down the sideline and sent a rocket over the USF keeper and into the back of the net.
“I just looked up and saw the opportunity,” said Hill. “It was nice it went in.”
Just four minutes in the second half, Stephanie Ribeiro continued the scoring after dribbling past two USF defenders hitting a shot from outside the 18 that managed to find its way past the Bulls goalkeeper.
With a two-goal advantage, head coach Len Tsantiris subbed an extra defender onto the field to help the Huskies keep hold of the lead.
But the defense was weakened when All-Rookie defender Kristen Vinciguerra was given a red card for retaliating on a foul. She was fouled on the sideline and both players went down. When Vinciguerra got up, she walked towards the USF player on the ground and bumped her with a knee.
“It was not an intentional things she did. I don’t know what he saw, I thought she was moving her leg to move out,” said Tsantiris on the call. “One is to kick someone like that, one is to lift your leg.”
Now with just ten players, the Bulls were able to crank up the pressure and pepper the UConn defense with shots. However, strong play by the defensive line and Emily Armstrong kept USF scoreless and preserved the lead for good.
The Huskies now face SMU in the finals of the American Conference Tournament without Vinciguerra who will be suspended one game for the red card. The two teams tied in the regular season, the only team the Huskies did not beat in conference play. The Mustangs are coming off two hard-fought victories; They defeated UCF on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals and beat Memphis 1-0 in the semis.
The winner will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Kickoff is at 2pm ET at Morrone Stadium on Sunday.