TAMPA, Fla. - The UConn women's soccer team claimed its first American Athletic Conference Championship, defeating USF 3-2 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw, on Sunday at Corbett Soccer Stadium. The result for the Huskies clinches a berth in the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, which will mark UConn's 29th tournament appearance.
During penalty kicks, Samantha McGuire (Fishkill, N.Y.), Gabrielle Charno (Seaford, N.Y.) and Megan Hunsberger converted for UConn (13-4-5), before Emily Armstrong (Collegeville, Pa.) made a title-clinching save on USF's final attempt.
Following the conclusion of tournament play, Armstrong was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Championship, while Rachel Hill (Rollinsford, N.H.), who scored a pair of game-winning goals in the tournament, was named Offensive Player of the Championship. Joining that duo on the All-Tournament team were Hunsberger, Riley Houle (Columbia, Conn.) and Allison Saucier (Rocky Hill, Conn.).
USF (13-6-2) held a 17-13 advantage in shots for the match, but UConn picked up the pace after the first half and notched an 11-3 edge in the second frame. Saucier played the first half in goal for UConn and made five saves, before Armstrong took over for the second frame, overtime and penalty kicks and recorded four saves. Kat Elliott made two saves for the Bulls.
The Huskies generated a dangerous chance in the third minute when Hunsberger chased down a long ball down the right side and sent a cross into the box, but USF cleared away the opportunity. USF picked up the game's first corner kick in the ninth minute, but Gianna Roma (Foxboro, Mass.) and then Hunsberger cleared it out.
Saucier made a huge save for the Huskies in the 11th minute when she charged forward to deflect a Leticia Skeete chance deep in the box. Skeete had another opportunity for the Bulls in the 21st, sending a shot towards an open net that rang the post. Charno picked up a massive blocked shot for the Huskies in the 36th minute, giving up her body to deflect a point-blank look in the box.
Andrea Plucenik (Brooklyn, Conn.) had a grade-A chance for the Huskies at the one-hour mark, firing a hard shot from the left side that Elliott tipped before it nicked the post. Five minutes later Hunsberger took aim after the ball rolled to her following a free kick for another just-wide attempt.
Armstrong made a diving save on a USF chance deep in the penalty area after a turnover in the 77thth minute, then three minutes later charged a loose ball heading towards the box and blasted it away from danger. Plucenik and Hill nearly connected in the 82nd minute when Plucenik sent a perfect cross into the box, but Hill's one-touch look skipped wide.
The Huskies generated a pair of corner kicks in the 87th minute, and Riley Houle (Columbia, Conn.) sent in a long shot off the first that Elliott tipped over the cage. USF had a dangerous series of opportunities in the final moments of regulation, but the contest went to overtime with no score.
USF fired the first shot of the extra frame, a 92nd minute bid that Armstrong corralled. The Bulls had another chance about five minutes later before Roma blocked a shot in the box and cleared the danger. During the second overtime in the 108th minute USF's Demi Stokes fired a header on goal off a corner kick, but again Armstrong made the save and the match went to penalties.
PENALTY KICK RESULTS:
USF - Demi Stokes - Post
UConn - Samantha McGuire - Good
USF - Kate Loye - Wide
UConn - Rachel Hill - Saved
USF - Anezha Blound - Good
UConn - Gabrielle Charno - Good
USF - Erica Burt - Good
UConn - Megan Hunsberger - Good
USF - Olivia Chance - Saved
UConn Wins, 3-2.