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FEATURE: UConn Prepared For Conference Play After Strong Non-Conference Start
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- The UConn women's soccer team (7-2-1, 0-0-0 The American) begins American Athletic Conference play on Thursday night with a trip to East Carolina (6-2-1, 0-0-0 The American) after a strong run through the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Huskies and Pirates meet on the pitch for the first time for a 7 p.m. start.
Connecticut's 7-2-1 start is its best since beginning the 2007 campaign, which culminated with an NCAA Quarterfinal berth, with the same record. The Huskies recently concluded a five-game homestand, during which they went 4-1-0.
Last season, the Huskies went 5-4 in league play to earn the fourth seed in The American Tournament, falling in the quarterfinals to fifth-seeded USF. UConn won its first American conference opener last season, taking down SMU by a score of 2-1 in Storrs. Overall, the Huskies are 16-4 in league openers dating back to 1994, when UConn began regular-season league play as a member of the Big East conference. Connecticut has won 10 regular season or conference tournament titles in program history.
Sophomore sensation Rachel Hill (Rollinsford, N.H.) was recently named to The American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll for the fifth straight week after a five-point week. Hill scored twice in a loss to No. 5 Florida State on Sept. 18, then assisted on the game-winner against Brown on Sept. 21. Hill leads the Huskies with 11 goals and 24 points, coming in at 2nd nationally in goals. The All-America candidate is first in the conference in goals and points.
UConn has never played East Carolina prior to this season. The Pirates represent the second of three first-time opponents for the Huskies last year, with UConn defeating Stony Brook 4-0 earlier this year and an upcoming contest with Tulsa representing another first-time foe. THe Huskies eceived votes in the latest NSCAA/Continental Tire Women’s Division 1 National Poll for the third straight week. The Huskies are also ranked No. 3 in the Northeast Region by NSCAA. Connecticut comes in at No. 36 in the first round of NCAA RPI.
LAST TIME OUT
UConn concluded its non-conference slate and a five-game homestand when it hosted Brown on Sunday, winning a 2-0 shutout against its Ivy league foe. The Huskies out-shot the Bears 30-10 on the day, including a 14-2 advantage in shots on goal. Allison Saucier (Rocky Hill, Conn.) and Emily Armstrong (Collegeville, Pa.) each played a half in goal to contribute to UConn’s fourth shutout of the season, with the former pushing her record to 5-0-0 on the season. UConn struck twice in the first half to jump out to an early lead. Samantha McGuire (Fishkill, N.Y.) scored in the 17th minute off a Hill feed, before Julie Hubbard (Waverly, Pa.) found the back of the net for her first goal of 2014 in the 34th minute via an Andrea Plucenik (Brooklyn, Conn.) helper. The win improved UConn to 6-1-0 on the season at Morrone Stadium, with the lone loss coming on Sept. 18 to No. 5 Florida State.
PAINTING THE PIRATES
East Carolina welcomes UConn to Johnson Soccer Stadium holding a 6-2-1 record in 2014. The Pirates have been a staunch defensive squad thus far, allowing only five goals in nine games and holding opponents to 8.8 shots per contest. Most recently, ECU played to a scoreless tie at UNCW on Sept. 19 before a 1-0 win over Campbell on Sept. 21. Kendall Frey scored the winner vs. the Camels and leads ECU in goals (3) and points (8) this season. Lexi Herring and Lana Spitler have both scored two goals, and Brittany Fary and Autumn Berry each hold a 1-1-3 scoring line. In goal, Saundra Baron has received the bulk of playing time and holds a 5-2-1 record with a 0.62 GAA, an .844 save percentage and five shutouts. East Carolina head coach Rob Donnenwirth is in his 16th season at the helm of the program and is the winningest coach in ECU history.
A LOOK AHEAD
Following the trip to East Carolina UConn rolls on in conference play when it visits Cincinnati on Sunday, Sept. 28. The Huskies are 3-1-2 all-time against the Bearcats. Most recently, a Stephanie Riberio (Pawtucket, R.I.) goal five minutes into extra time gave the Huskies a thrilling 1-0 victory in Storrs last season.