In the final game before their A-10 schedule gets started, the women’s soccer team was tasked to beat the #23 team in the country: the UConn Huskies. The Huskies, who came into the game with a 7-2 record, were looking to keep their success going. The Rams entered last Thursday’s contest at 5-2-1 and were trying to bounce back from a tough loss against Hofstra while simultaneously gearing up for a very good opponent. “The biggest challenge in playing the #23 team was the preparation. We were very focused and performing well in our training sessions heading into the UConn game, but…their style of play is completely different from ours,” said head coach Jessica Clinton.
Trouble started early for the Rams when UConn’s Kristen Vinciguerra back heeled a ball into the back of the net in the 13th minute. However, Fordham’s department of defense stood tall following the early goal and did not allow any more Huskie goals. Unfortunately, the UConn defense played just as well, and took their team into the half with a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies struck early in the second half as well, when Stephanie Ribeiro headed in the second UConn goal of the day, and her team-leading eighth goal of the season. Ribeiro was also credited with an assist on the first goal.
The Rams did not back down from the #23 team. In the 70th minute, sophomore defender Keri Villano sent a lead pass ahead to senior forward Nicol Natale. Natale juked the goalie and put away the goal, cutting the lead in half. It was Natale’s second goal of the season and first since their game against Manhattan on Sept. 4. “It was great to have Nicol score,” Clinton said. “It was a big time goal.” Clinton feels as though Natale’s best soccer is still to come. “I believe more goals and assists will come for Nicol, but she’s a scouted player on opponents reports. But knowing Nicol, she’ll find a way to be successful.”
The Rams were on the brink of a dramatic comeback, but could not withstand the powerful play of UConn. The Huskies opened up a huge lead, tacking on two goals in the 82nd and 88th minutes, respectively. “We began to push forward more in the final 10 minutes to work ourselves to come back to tie the game. In the process, they exposed what we were leaving open,” Clinton said. “The score did not reflect how we played for 80 minutes. However in the last 10 minutes of the game, we probably learned more and gained more experience than we did in the previous 80 minutes.” The Rams were unable to battle back this time, dropping the contest 4-1.
The Rams next challenge will have more meaning than any of their previous games, as they begin their A-10 schedule. “Our team feels good heading into conference play and are excited to start this Thursday on the road,” Clinton said. “They’ve worked extremely hard to put themselves in a position to be successful; they understand that each game means potential points.”
However, Clinton doesn’t want her team to get too ahead of themselves. “We take each day and each game one at a time and try not to think too far into the future,” she said. “This team has a lot of potential to go far given their talent, trust in each other and battle mentality.”