NEW BRITAIN - Just 40 seconds into the game, the UConn Huskies set the tone for the entire game as Kess Elmore put in a goal right out of the gate.
“It felt amazing to get my first UConn goal,” Elmore said. “It was a surreal moment and I really enjoyed it.
Elmore wasn’t done though as she scored again in the second half on a cross by Elena Santos. The two goals were the first of Elmore’s UConn career and she propelled the Huskies over Central Connecticut State 3-0 on Sunday.
“She makes good runs and is very dangerous,” UConn head coach Len Tsantiris said. “She did a lot of good stuff attacking and defending.”
After Elmore’s goal, CCSU tightened up its defense and held UConn scoreless for the rest of the first half. But the damage had been done.
“Conceding a goal in the first 30 seconds or so took a lot of the momentum away from us that we had coming into the game,” CCSU head coach Mick D’Arcy said. “So that was disappointing but the resilience to fight back from that and stay in the game was impressive.”
Defensively, UConn was just strong as it was on offense. The defensive highlight was when CCSU’s Yo Tachibana got by UConn goalie Mollie Kerrigan and had a goal in sight before Liana Keegans kicked the ball away to preserve the shutout.
“It gives us so much energy,” Huskies defenseman Sabrina Toole said. “No matter where you play on the field, whenever you see Keegs or Paige [Liebel] make a save like that you just want to do everything you can to get goals for them.”
Toole had the other goal for UConn on a header from a corner kick by Keegans.
Although UConn controlled the scoreboard, the CCSU team played strong throughout the game.
“It was three mistakes that we were punished for,” D’Arcy said. “We didn’t really do much wrong besides that, but when you play against a quality team like UConn and some of the quality players they have, they will punish you when you make mistakes.”
For the Huskies, the strong play out of their freshmen is a positive sign. Along with Elmore, Zoe Steck also looked impressive in the game, running around and pressuring CCSU’s players.
“I thought today they gave 1000 percent,” senior Toole said of the young UConn players. “They fought for every ball. When we kicked a long ball in the back they chased it down no matter where it was. I thought their effort was great today.”
“They fought today and that’s what we do,” Tsantiris said. “It’s not there yet but it’s getting there. We don’t know who’s going to play where, but we found out some things today. If you have a young team first they gotta learn to fight and then find out where they play best for the team.”
With the first win of the season, UConn moves to 1-3-1 on the young season. Central Connecticut State lost both games over the weekend, falling to 2-3 on the season, but the strength of schedule early on can only help.
“I think we are getting better,” D’Arcy said. “We’re [five] games into the season at this stage it’s getting there. I’m happy overall with where the group is. The level of soccer has improved. We’re keeping the ball much better and creating chances.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan