Sports

Two shutouts mark sour stretch for women’s soccer

No. 24 UConn keeps Bruno off scoreboard in first trip to Stevenson Field in almost two decades

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, September 21, 2015

Megan Grant ‘19 protects the goal from a UConn opponent in a game that started off strong, but ended with a 1-0 loss for Bruno. The Bears also fell to UMass by the same margin this weekend.

It was a sadly familiar story this week for the women’s soccer team: It played well, but its opponents were even better. While the Bears (2-4) tested their competition, a pair of mistakes proved costly in 1-0 losses to the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut.

“We need to continue to improve. That final execution has got to come,” said Head Coach Phil Pincince. “We just want to continue to get better.  That’s what it’s about.”

UMass 1, Brown 0 

Riding the momentum from last Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Florida Atlantic, the team came into Thursday’s matchup versus UMass ready to claim another win. But victory did not come so easily.

Brown entered the game with a .500 record at 2-2, while UMass came in with a record of 1-3-2. But after early shots from Mikela Waldman ’18 and Charlotte Beach ’16 missed the net, Erin Doster gave the Minutewomen an early lead with a goal at the 12-minute mark.

UMass’ defense stifled the Bears’ attack in the first half: Brown took only three shots, none on net. As the first half ended, Beach took aim for the last attempt of the period, but it sailed high, and UMass took its 1-0 lead to halftime.

The Bears’ offense improved in the second half with 11 shots, four of which were on net. UMass goalie Cassidy Babin proved rock-solid in goal, turning aside all four shots she faced, but the Bears missed opportunities as well. The team took six shots after the 80th minute, including a header off the post from Megan Grant ’19 with less than a minute to go in regulation.

Despite the negative outcome, the Bears’ defense fought admirably. After allowing Doster’s 12th-minute goal, it held the Minutewomen scoreless in the second half. Goalie Christine Etzel ’19, who finished the game with eight saves, maintained an outstanding goals-against average of 1.00.

UConn 1, Brown 0

Against a UConn team they have not beaten since 1990, the Bears came out strong early. In the seventh minute, a corner kick led to a scrum in front of the net, and a header from Erin Katz ’16 hit the left post, inches from giving Brown an early advantage. But only a few minutes later, UConn’s Stephanie Ribeiro got open in front of Brown’s 18-yard box. She sent a bouncing shot past Etzel in goal, giving the Huskies the early lead in their first appearance at Stevenson Field since 1996.

To their credit, the Bears regrouped after allowing the goal, and, much like against UMass, shut UConn out the rest of the game.

“I liked what the backfield did. I liked what the midfield did. We’ve got a hardworking core,” Pincince said. “Even our subs went in and worked as hard as they could.”

Again, though, the Bears failed to take advantage of their scoring opportunities. They took seven corner kicks, including five in the second half, but were unable to convert any of their chances despite several close calls. “We’ve been close quite a few times,” Pincince said. “We just need to continue to work on execution” on offense.

Etzel played an important role once again, as she allowed only one goal and repeatedly kept the Bears alive. In particular, a diving save off a header at the 75-minute mark brought the crowd to its feet and held the Bears’ deficit at one. Her save percentage for the year is .848, and she has faced 33 shots on net, saving 28 of them.

While two shutouts are not the results the team hoped for, Pincince sees the schedule so far, which has consisted entirely of non-Ivy play, as valuable preparation for Ivy competition.

“We put a schedule together for this 2015 team that would challenge them in non-league to prepare for the league,” he said. “We’ve played St. John’s, we’ve played FAU, UConn. … We’ve played some very strong teams. I’m very pleased about the performance heading into the Ivies next weekend.”

The Bears will spend this week at home, taking on Sacred Heart Wednesday at 7 p.m. before opening their Ivy League schedule against Dartmouth Sunday afternoon. Pincince is confident that the schedule so far has prepared his team for successful Ivy competition.

“You want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve done.”