For the first two games of the season, Kess Elmore was absent from the UConn Huskies lineup as she waited for the NCAA to clear her academically. However, she made her debut against Rutgers and made her presence known with two goals against Central Connecticut.
The Arkansas Razorbacks didn’t seem to be aware of her as they lost track of her on a counter-attack. Eight minutes into overtime, Vivien Beil sent a cross to a wide-open Elmore at the top of the box, who calmly settled the ball and sent it past the keeper to give the Huskies a 2-1 win, their first of the season at home.
“I was just wide open,” Elmore said. “Vivi made a great turn and then she played me the ball. I was one-on-one with the keeper and I wasn’t going to miss it from such close range.”
While she scored the game-winner against Central, a walk-off goal was new for Liverpool, England native.
“In England we don’t have a Golden Goal so it was a surreal experience the way the game just ground to a halt,” she said. “It was amazing.”
That the Huskies even had a chance at net was a surprise given the way the previous 53 minutes had gone. Arkansas dominated possession and out-shot UConn 15-to-1, while holding an 8-to-1 advantage on corner kicks in the second half alone.
The Razorbacks scored off a Parker Goins 40-yard free kick that sailed untouched into the net after UConn keeper Mollie Kerrigan failed to get through a pair of attackers and punch the ball away. Arkansas had more than a few other chances that went just wide or off the post.
However, that kind of heavy pressure on offense left Arkansas vulnerable to counter-attacks. The Huskies were ready for it and took full advantage when given the chance to nab the game-winner.
“They get very disorganized in the back because they push so many players forward. If we catch them on a counter, we can get goals,” said head coach Len Tsantiris.
UConn set the tone with the opening goal and had multiple opportunities to double the score. Their first goal came when Liane Keegans found Alexa Casimiro at the top of the box, who turned and chipped it with her left foot over Arkansas keeper Rachel Harris and into the net.
Vivien Beil nearly chipped one in herself, but the shot clanged off the crossbar. In the second half, Elena Santos almost got behind the defense for a breakaway, but was called offsides on the play.
With the win, UConn improves to 2-3-1 on the season while Arkansas falls to 4-4. The importance of this victory for the Huskies can’t be understated.
For a while in the second half and at the start of overtime, it appeared they would be lucky to come away with a draw. However, a win over a quality SEC opponent is a huge confidence boost to a young team still trying to find their way.
The Huskies will look to build on this win on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Bronx to take on the Fordham Rams. Kickoff is set for 1 pm.