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FEATURE: Defense Shining As UConn Makes Postseason Push

Senior All-Conference performer Gabrielle Charno has helped UConn record eight shutouts this season from her center back position
Nov. 7, 2014

By Marya Fratoni, UConn Athletic Communications

TAMPA, Fla. --
The UConn women's soccer (12-4-4) is in to Florida this weekend for the American Athletic Conference semi-finals against top-seed UCF (16-3-0), and one thing is for sure: the Huskies' defense is going to be the glue that holds the team together and will be the ultimate determinate of the outcome of the  match.

While defense is a team practice, the key cogs to any strong defensive unit in are the center backs and defensive midfielder in front of the keeper. While the Huskies have locked into a two-goalie rotation, they have also began to settle on central defenders, with center backs Gabrielle Charno (Seaford, N.Y.) and Toriana Patterson (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and holding mid Brianna Butler (Rock Tavern, N.Y.) coming on strong of late and starting each of the last three matches together, all shutouts.

Those three  impact members in the center during UConn's recent defensive surge, which has seen it record eight shutouts overall and three consecutive clean sheets, surprisingly have only started working together this season and only consists of one returning defender (Charno) on the back line. New outside backs Megan Hunsberger (Bethlehem, Pa.) and All-Rookie team member Breanne Moreau (Belchertown, Mass.) along with veteran Gianna Roma (Foxboro, Mass.) have also been excellent, and Samantha McGuire (Fishkill, N.Y.) has made a seamless transition from forward to a second defensive mid position.

But what is the key to their success? The answer is simple: communication. The three central defenders agree that they are always on the same page at the same time and if not, they are able to stay in the moment and bring the focus back to where it should be.

Patterson notes that this is even true when they are making mistakes, not just when they are dominating their half of the field.

 "Even if you're making a mistake and someone else is making a mistake, then you're both making a mistake and you're on the same page," the sophomore transfer from Georgia said. 

Additionally, double teaming and aggressive play has been a secondary factor to the defenders' success. "We are keeping very well with closing down gaps," said Head Coach Len Tsantiris. "We're more aggressive with not letting the other players turn."

For the majority of the 2014 season, Tsantiris has decided to split time between his two goalies, Allison Saucier (Rocky Hill, Conn.) and Emily Armstrong (Collegeville, Pa). Together, they have notched eight shutouts this year, most for UConn in a season since 2010, and recorded a 1.00 GAA and a .772 save percentage.

Charno believes both keepers are a good fit for the team and the defense. "They both deserve a starting spot so I think it's just the right thing to do, and it's working," the senior All-Conference First Team member said.

Most importantly, both goalies do a great job of communicating and playing in the same way so that their defenders do not have to adjust as much. "They both work really well with us," said Butler. "It's not like we have to change the way we play for either of them."

UConn was the lone side in The American able to come out on top when it played UCF in the regular season, and now to advance they must do so again. The Huskies' defense will no doubt be an important factor that will protect between the pipes all game long. The Huskies are aiming to win an American Championship, and as the old saying goes, "Offense wins games. Defense wins championships."
 

 

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