At the end of UConn women’s soccer’s non-conference schedule, it’s hard to get a read on the Huskies. They’ve some bright spots — notably a 4-3 win over Ole Miss — but also some bad moments — such as a three-game losing streak capped by a 3-0 loss to previously-winless Boston University — along with everything in between.
“When you have youth and inexperience, you’re going to have inconsistency,” head coach Margaret Rodriguez said.
But entering conference play, UConn (2-7) has seen the bad times more often than the good. It looked like things might’ve taken a positive turn last weekend when the Huskies traveled down to Arkansas for a pair of games against SEC opponents.
In the first game against Ole Miss, UConn doubled their season goal total with a 4-3 win. Erin Spillane (two goals), Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky and Izzy Lynch all scored for the Huskies against an opponent that received votes in the top 25 entering the game. The next game, UConn got off to a 1-0 lead against Arkansas but allowed three unanswered goals. Overall though, it was a positive weekend for the team.
That momentum carried on into a Friday night battle with Eastern Michigan — at least for 40 minutes. Then, in the final minutes of the first half, the Huskies gave up a weak goal off a free kick from the top of the box that went through the wall and off goalkeeper Randi Palacios’ hands. Going down a goal seemed to throw UConn off their game.
“You give up a goal in the first half and you end up chasing the game and I think that’s when you find more inconsistency,” Rodriguez said. “Because you’re chasing, you’re trying to make rash decisions and trying to solve it on your own.”
The Huskies certainly had their chances in that first half but couldn’t put the ball away — something they’ve struggled with all season long. Either they score in bursts (three goals vs. CCSU, four vs. Ole Miss) or they get shutout. There’s been almost no in-between.
“In the second half, I think at that point we didn’t have the mentality in the box,” Rodriguez said. “We allowed balls to get floated into their keeper unchallenged and we needed to find a little bit of the fight mentality in the final third for us.”
UConn lacks a bonafide goal-scoring threat at the moment. Danyko-Kulchycky and Spillane lead the team with three goals each while three others players each have a goal to their name. Yamilee Eveillard leads the team with 16 shots but has yet to find the back of the net. Outside help isn’t coming. If a star scorer breaks out in conference play, odds are it’s one of those three players mentioned.
“I’m still trying to find a personality that’s going to put the ball away for us,” Rodriguez said.
On the other side of the field, the defense looked better against Eastern Michigan — although one game is a small sample size considering they gave up six goals the two games prior.
Alana Moore is back from injury and slid into a defensive midfield role along with Heidi Druhel. Elena Santos and Regan Schiappa have been solid on the wings while freshman Halle Palmedo appears to have locked down the second center defender spot next to Liane Keegans.
“She needed a few weeks under her belt to get seasoned and comfortable,” Rodriguez said of Palmedo.
UConn will face a tough opponent this upcoming weekend as they travel to Texas to face Houston (4-5-1) and SMU (5-2-1). The Huskies haven’t enjoyed the friendly confines of Morrone Stadium much this season, having played just four of their first 11 games at home. While it’s not ideal to be on the road so much, Rodriguez likes the way her team has traveled so far.
“We’re sort of performing a little bit better on the road,” she said. “Maybe [the lack of] outside distractions, not trying to play for a home crowd is taking the pressure off our team.”