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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After an NCAA Tournament first round victory over New Hampshire on Nov. 15, the UConn women's soccer team (14-4-5) heads to Happy Valley for a second round match-up at the No. 2 seed in its region, No. 8 Penn State (18-3-0). The contest is a rematch of an early-season match at PSU in August, a 3-1 victory for the Nittany Lions. The two sides will square off at Jeffrey Field at 7:30 p.m.
UConn defeated New Hampshire, 2-0, behind goals from Danielle Gottwik (New Port Richey, Fla.) and Samantha McGuire (Fishkill, N.Y.) last Saturday to advance in the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship. The Huskies are playing in their 29th NCAA Tournament this year, each coming during the 34-year reign of head coach Len Tsantiris. UConn earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the American Athletic Conference Championship on Nov. 9 in Tampa, defeating USF in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw.
UConn and Penn State have met 14 times in the past, a series that began during UConn’s inaugural season in 1979. The Huskies and Nittany Lions have also faced off twice in NCAA Tournament play, with Penn State recorded back-to-back victories in the third round in 2001 and the quarterfinals in 2002. Both of those contests were played at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs. Before Penn State’s win earlier this season, the last prior meeting between the two sides was in 2010, a 3-2 overtime victory for Connecticut.
The New Hampshire contest marked UConn's sixth-consecutive shutout and 11th overall in 2014. The Huskies have not allowed a goal over the last 605:17 of game action. The 11 shutouts for UConn is its most in a season since 2007, when it recorded 11 blankings in an NCAA Quarterfinal season. The Huskies have also recorded six-consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2004. Emily Armstrong (Collegeville, Pa.) and Allison Saucier (Rocky Hill, Conn.) have settled into a half-by-half rotation in goal, with Armstrong holding a 0.82 GAA and a .814 save percentage and Saucier a 0.93 GAA and .767 save percentage. The duo are each in the top-five in The American in GAA.
Also key to UConn’s recent defensive success has been in the insertion of center back Toriana Patterson (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and left back Gianna Roma (Foxboro, Mass.) into the starting lineup, where they join right back Megan Hunsberger (Bethlehem, Pa.) and First Team All-Conference center back Gabrielle Charno (Seaford, N.Y.) to give the Huskies a backline that has been dominant of late. Defensive midfielders Brianna Butler (Rock Tavern, N.Y.) and McGuire round out the defensive half for UConn, as the “solid six” have played nearly every minute over the last six games, including all 380 during the postseason.
Offensively, UConn is led by American Athletic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year Rachel Hill (Rollinsford, N.H.) and her 16 goals, three assists and 35 points. Hill leads The American in both goals and points and is top-25 nationally in both categories. She is also tops in the conference and on UConn with five game-winning goals, including both of UConns' game-winners for the conference championship, of which she was named Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
Behind Hill, Riley Houle (Columbia, Conn.) is enjoying a career season with a 6-5-17 scoring line, which led to First Team All-Conference and All-Tournament team laurels. Gottwik and McGuire have also scored six goals apiece, and Julie Hubbard (Waverly, Pa.) is the fifth Husky in double-digit points with a 3-4-10 scoring line.
A LOOK AT THE NITTANY LIONS
Penn State enters the second round with an 18-3-0 overall record, earning an at-large bid and the No. 2 seed in the region after a 12-1-0 run through the Big Ten during the regular season. The conference’s regular season champion dropped a 1-0 stunner to Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, but rebounded with a 4-1 win over Buffalo in the NCAA first round. Mallory Weber leads the Nittany Lion offense with a 7-6-20 scoring line and is one of eight players on the squad with double-digit points. Frannie Crouse is the top goal-scorer with nine tallies, while Emily Hurd leads the team with eight assists. Raquel Rodriguez (6-3-15) and Kori Chapic (5-4-14) are among the top-scorers and are tied for the team-high with three game-winning goals each. Penn State has out-scored its opponents by a 50-15 margin this season, and out-shoots opponents by an average of 14.9-8.1 on the year. Britt Eckerstrom has started all 21 matches in goal and played nearly every minute, holding a 0.61 GAA and an .812 save percentage with seven shutouts.