Update Nov. 7: The field hockey team will learn Tuesday its seeding, pairing, and location for the NCAA Tournament, following its 3-2 loss to Syracuse on Sunday in the Big East Tournament finals at Syracuse. Anne Jeute ’14 (CLAS), Rayell Heistand ’12 (CLAS), Jestine Angelini ’12 (ED), and Marie Elena Bolles ’14 (NUR) were each named to the All-Tournament Team.
Even as they look forward to the postseason, seniors Ali Blankmeyer ’12 (CLAS) and Rayell Heistand ’12 (CLAS) understand what is expected of the No. 4 Huskies field hockey team as they enter the Big East Tournament as the top seed this weekend in Syracuse.
“This time of the year is exciting,” says Blankmeyer, a midfielder/forward and a four-year starter for Hall of Fame coach Nancy Stevens. “We played all the teams in the Big East, but we can’t take any team lightly. We’re going to start off with Louisville, and they’re going to want to beat us as bad as Syracuse. We have to go in with an open mind. We’ve got a target on our back.”
The Huskies (16-1, 6-0 Big East) will face the fourth seed, Louisville (10-8, 3-3), at 12:30 p.m., followed by second-seed Syracuse (16-3, 5-1) against third-seed Villanova (8-10, 3-3) at 3 p.m. Both games will be broadcast online at BigEast.tv.
“We try to have a high intensity in practice,” adds Heistand. “We always think about how hard Syracuse, Louisville, and teams like (No. 2) UNC are working. We want to work harder than them.”
The Huskies outshot their opponents 250-134 during the regular season and have had steady goalkeeping by sophomore Sarah Mansfield ’14 (CLAS), who posted 7 shutouts, 58 saves, and an 0.87 goals against average in the nets. The Huskies’ only loss came at the hands of Boston College in early September.
UConn has also converted more penalty corners than its opponents, a factor that Blankmeyer says has been important in helping the team to jump-start its offense early in the game. The Huskies posted a 119-85 advantage on penalty corners this year.
“We’ve been coming together offensively,” she says. “Our penalty corners – which is a huge part of the game – are stellar. Our conversion rate of scoring on penalty corners is over 50 percent.”
Forward/midfielder Marie Elena Bolles ’14 (NUR) and back Jestine Angelini ’12 (ED) lead the Huskies in scoring, each with 32 points, followed by outstanding freshman forward Chloe Hunnable ’15 (CLAS), who scored 30 points this season.
However, Hunnable’s availability this weekend will be a game-time decision, as the freshman is recovering from mononucleosis.
“The whole team is working together and stepping up more,” says Heistand. “It’s not like one person makes a difference. Our chemistry on the field is great. We work together.”
Blankmeyer says the Huskies enjoy the postseason and use their excitement about it to push them forward during games.
“We have a lot of fun at the tournament,” she says. “A lot is on the line so people get more anxious, but hopefully we can take that energy and put it on the field.”
Louisville is led in scoring by senior midfielder Hayley Turner with 28 points (10 goals, 8 assists) and sophomore forward Elizabeth Vance with 16 points (6,4). Redshirt junior goalkeeper Erin Conrad has 87 saves and a goals against average of 1.42
When the teams played during the regular season on Oct. 1 at the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex, the Huskies won 4-2.