TV: ACC Network Extra
STORRS, Conn. – After months of practice and preparation the University of Connecticut women’s lacrosse team is set to lift the lid on the 2018 spring season. The Huskies take their talents to the Carrier Dome in upstate New York when they visit No. 7 Syracuse in a Friday night showdown. The contest is slated to begin at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra and ESPN3.
Looking at UConn
The Huskies return one of the program’s most prolific scorers in attacker Grace Nolan. Nolan, a 2017 All-BIG EAST First Team selection, is coming off a junior campaign in which she led the conference in scoring, notching 4.81 points per game. The senior is UConn’s most experience attacker as she leads all returnees with 77 points, 44 goals, and 33 assists in 2017. Her 77 points rank second in the UConn record book for points in a single season, while her 33 helpers marked the second highest in program history.
Defensively, UConn will be led by junior defender Cassie Ekstrom and sophomore goalkeeper Grace Beshlian. Ekstrom was named to the preseason IWLCA All-American Honorable Mention after leading the team in both caused turnovers and ground balls, boasting 25 and 40, respectively. She ranked fourth among BIG EAST leaders averaging 2.50 ground balls per contest and was among the Top-10 in the league in caused turnovers (1.60 per game).
Beshlian returns between the pipes following a strong freshman campaign. In 2017 Beshlian led the BIG EAST in saves per game with 10.38. Starting all 16 games for the Huskies, the Wantagh, N.Y. native completed her first year as a Husky with a 12.90 goals against average and a .445 save percentage.
UConn finished the 2017 season with an 8-8 overall record and a 5-4 clip in the BIG EAST, their fifth-straight season with a winning league record.
Under Head Coach Katie Woods the Huskies own a 5-2 mark in season openers. UConn looks to open the season with a win for the third straight year after defeating Fairfield, 16-12, in 2017 and Quinnipiac, 21-0, in 2016. The program is 12-9 all-time in season openers, dating back to 1997.
The Orange are coming off a 15-7 record and a first round berth in the 2017 NCAA tournament. Syracuse returns four of their top five scorers from a year ago, including second-team All-American Riley Donahue. Donahue led the team in every offensive statistical category with 68 points on 42 goals and 26 assists.
A Meeting of Old Foes
Friday’s tilt marks the 18th contest between the two programs. The Orange own a 17-1 edge in the all-times series, dating back to when the two squads both competed in the BIG EAST conference.
Against the Rankings
Friday’s tilt against No. 7 Syracuse is just one of six ranked opponents the Huskies will face this season. UConn is set to play a rigorous nonconference campaign, seeing matchups against No. 16 James Madison (Feb. 18), No. 18 Massachusetts (March 3) and No. 24 UAlbany (March 7). The squad rounds out its Top-25 play against conference foes Denver (RV) and Florida (No .5) on March 24 and 31, respectively.
Welcome to Storrs
Woods welcomes nine freshman to the Huskies this season. Joining UConn is Elena Hynes, Abby Vetsch, Katherine Parker, Sydney Watson, Stephanie Palmucci, Annie Carroll, Jaqueline Manno, Olivia Troy and Sam McKenna.
Bye Bye BIG EAST
The 2018 season will mark the final campaign in the BIG EAST Conference for the Huskies after it was announced in October that the American Athletic Conference will sponsor women's lacrosse beginning next year (2019). This year, ECU will field a varsity team for the first time and will join UConn, Cincinnati and Temple as the four AAC members with programs. The league will welcome in both Florida and Vanderbilt, who also are current affiliate members of the BIG EAST, to form the six-team league.
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