Bugs Bunny once sang, “…on with the show, this is it”. And so it was in the debut of the 2013 edition of Len Tsantiris’ UConn Huskies. The show was good. The ending not so, as UConn (0-1-0) battled back from a 2-0 deficit only to have Wisconsin score a tie-breaker late and drop the Huskies, 3-2, in the season opener for both squads in Storrs Friday evening.
Warner Brothers couldn’t have better drawn up some of the funny bounces the ball took before finding its way into the net on a couple of the goals. First there was Riley Houle coming away with a rebound off a two Badger defenders and goalie Genevieve Richard that left her alone in front of the Wisconsin (1-0-0) net three yards out with no one within five yards of her that tied the game at two.
Next came the eventual game winner with just under nine minutes to go after Badger midfielder Kinley McNicoll’s point blank shot went off goalie Emily Armstrong’s hand off the cross bar and dropped straight down to the waiting foot of Cara Walls for the easy chip.
With a young squad that features ten freshmen and ten sophomores Tsantiris would have been satisfied coming away with a tie against the rugged Big Ten opponent.
“(Wisconsin) is a good team. It should have been 2-2 and I would have been very happy. We could have stole the win, but they did. We had a couple of very good chances.”
One of those chances came mid-way through the second after a beautiful long lead pass from Liana Hinds hit streaking freshman Rachel Hill who slipped passed the Wisconsin defense with only Richard to beat, but her shot 20 yards out went just wide left.
“They had their moments. We had our moments”, said the UConn coach in his 33rd season at the helm.
The shots on goal reflected how close the contest was with both teams notching fifteen apiece.
With a young team the schedule makers weren’t kind this year. UConn hosts second ranked Stanford Sunday evening.
Tsantiris wasn’t about to make any excuses, “One time we started 0-4. Played all these top 20 teams. But we made the tournament and went to the Final Eight. And that was a very young team.”
And added, “They gotta learn. What it is to fight to win these games. You gotta play these teams. If you steal a win here and there that’s great, otherwise you learn and move on. But, you must win the games you should win.”
After the physical matchup with the Badgers Friday, Tsantiris anticipates a much different style from the talented Pac-12 Cardinal squad.
“Stanford is a very good team. Totally different team. They have very quality players. Wisconsin is a hard, blue collar team like we are. Stanford is very good on the ground, so we’re going to have to be organized and smart about how we’re gonna defend. They will attack so there should be space behind them to get something.”
UConn finished 9-8-2 in its final season as a member of the Big East last year…The Huskies have been picked to finish fourth in the inaugural season of the newly formed American Athletic Conference…UConn will face AAU members Houston, Memphis and Temple for the first time in program history…Coach Tsantiris has a career record of 500-170-51 and is only the second coach to record 500 wins…Stanford has appeared in five straight College Cup Final Fours…Stanford lost to this year’s pre-season #1 ranked North Carolina, 1-0 (2 OT), in last year’s College Cup semi-final…Sunday’s game in Storrs against Stanford is at 6 p.m.