PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - For the fifth consecutive season, the No. 4 UConn field hockey team is the Big East champion. It is the 12th time since 2000 and 16th time overall that head coach Nancy Stevens has won the conference crown with the Huskies.
Tightly-contested throughout the entire game, the Huskies (20-1, 7-0 Big East) fended-off the Liberty attack in the second half to leave Howarth Field with a Big East championship trophy after a 3-2 victory.
Junior Charlotte Veitner, senior Anna Middendorf and sophomore Amanda Collins all notched goals for the Huskies in the win. Veitner, along with seniors Olivia Bolles and Darby Smith, recorded assists against the Flames.
Including Big East regular season titles, it is now 32 Big East championships that Stevens has gathered in her 27 seasons at UConn. With the win, the Huskies earn an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament - their 28th appearance in program history.
With a 3-1 lead at halftime, the Flames scored just four minutes into the second half off a penalty corner - trimming the lead to 3-2. From there it was about defense for the Huskies.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Nina Klein made two saves in the game, but none bigger than a diving stop in the 44th minute to keep UConn ahead.
UConn had an 18-8 shots advantage over Liberty, including a 13-4 edge in shots on goal, as the Huskies mounted enough of an offensive attack in the last 35 minutes to run some clock.
Freshman Svea Boker made a key steal in the final minutes, moving the ball up the field and allowing the Huskies to bleed the rest of regulation to hold-on for the championship win over the Big East newcomer.
The first 10 minutes were back and forth, until the Big East Offensive Player of the Year took charge. Veitner stole the ball from a Liberty defender, dribbled to the top of the circle and fired a shot to the bottom right corner of the cage in the 11th minute.
In what Stevens described as a "world-class goal" at halftime, Veitner hammered the ball home to give UConn a 1-0 advantage.
Just two minutes later, Middendorf capitalized off a penalty corner - firing a shot set up by Veitner and senior Darby Smith - making it 2-0. The Huskies' work on penalty corners over the weekend paid off on that conversion.
Late in the first half, Collins tacked on her 20th score of the season when senior Olivia Bolles found her cutting in the center of the circle. UConn took a 3-0 edge in the 30th minute and was in total control.
The Flames scored on a penalty corner just before halftime, getting one back before the intermission.
Veitner, Collins, Boker, Middendorf and junior Casey Umstead were all named to the All-Big East Tournament Team. With three goals and six points in wins over Temple and Liberty, Collins was awarded the Big East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player in the postgame ceremony.
The Huskies will find out their destiny tonight, as the NCAA selection show airs live HERE at 10 p.m. (ET).
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