The UConn Huskies came into this match with Loyola (MD) Greyhounds with two straight losses. Last Saturday they lost 1-0 to Georgetown down in Washington, DC and then on Tuesday, they fell to No. 1 Notre Dame double overtime, also 1-0. The offense was a problem in both of those games, but it was not a problem on Saturday.
The Huskies scored five goals in a 5-1 win for the first time since the 2014 AAC Tournament quarterfinals, where they beat Temple. Abdou Mbacke Thiam led the team with two goals, followed by Andrew Geres, Jake Nerwinski and Alex Sanchez. Geres had two assists, with Kwame Awuah, Sebastian Brems, Nerwinski and Nick Zuniga each adding one.
“I think these are the games we have to win,” Geres said.
The Huskies dominated on shots, outshooting the Greyhounds 13-to-4.
The match started out uneventfully, but got action packed fast. In the 11th minute, Andrew Geres had a shot that hit side netting off of a deflection, giving the Huskies the first corner of the match and Nerwinski almost scored on the ensuing corner when the ball squirted out towards the edge of the 18-yard box.
Five minutes later, UConn came through and scored. Geres sent the ball in to Alex Sanchez on the left side near the end line. Sanchez’ shot got inside of the Greyhound keeper on the near side for the goal. The Huskies almost scored again on a rocket off the foot of Mbacke Thiam from about 20 yards, but it was saved.
In the 26th minute, Loyola tied it up. They had a free kick on the left side, about 30 yards from goal. Scott Levene saved the initial shot, but Matt Bautista was there to put in the rebound to tie the match, 1-1.
“We have to do better on free kicks, we’re not happy with that. We should have shut them out and we didn’t,” head coach Ray Reid said.
It was not tied for long though. After a Loyola turnover in the defensive third allowed Mbacke Thiam to put the ball in the far corner of the net in the 28th minute, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
“I think Abdou’s first goal, it made it 2-1, we answered them quick and from a psychological standpoint, that was good,” Reid said.
UConn finished with seven shots in the first half, five of which were on target, while Loyola had two, one of which was on frame.
The Huskies continued the strong offensive play to start the second half. Andrew Geres took the ball on the right side and came inside the 18-yard box all by himself. His shot short side got by the keeper in the 46th minute and the rout was on.
“The ball just fell to me and I hit it,” Geres said of the goal.
Reid also had high praise for the redshirt junior.
“He’s our MVP in some ways,” Reid said.
In the 49th minute, the Huskies came back again to take a 4-1 lead. Nerwinski carried the ball down the right side and sent a cross in after making a couple of Loyola defenders miss. Mbacke Thiam was waiting for it and he scored his second goal of the night before leaping into the Goal Patrol.
“He’s a difference maker,” Reid said of Mbacke Thiam.
After a few missed chances, with Nerwinski involved in all of them, he was able to score in the 60th minute. He put in a cross from Awuah to give the Huskies a 5-1 lead.
UConn (4-3-0) is next in action on Wednesday when they travel to Kingston, RI to take on the Rhode Island Rams. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.