Taylor's injury a blow to UConn women's team

August, 18, 2008
STORRS, Conn. -- Most of the student body had yet to arrive at Connecticut, so there wasn't a palpable air of anything beyond tranquility on campus Sunday. But angst could be in abundance this fall.

Front and center, of course, is the news that basketball recruit Elena Delle Donne won't enroll, but the women's soccer team has its own missing centerpiece after All-America defender Brittany Taylor tore her ACL earlier this year.

The Huskies came within a few minutes of the College Cup last fall, when a surprising postseason run ended in a quarterfinal on late goals for Florida State. They knew they were losing one program-changing talent in senior midfielder Meghan Schnur (although Schnur is actually still around as a student assistant this season). But losing Taylor, the program's other field player with ample international experience on youth national teams, makes constructing another postseason contender that much more difficult.

Some nice combinations from senior Brittany Tegeler and impressively active sophomores Elise Fugowski and Sarah Stanczyk produced two goals in Sunday's exhibition game against Boston College, but defense would have been the team's backbone with Taylor. Connecticut still has a solid base for its back line with junior Lauren Ebert and senior Jessica Diakun -- the latter currently at less than 100 percent with an ankle injury -- and getting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe back from the Canadian Olympic team will be a significant addition.

Another key face in keeping opponents off the scoreboard and out of rhythm will be sophomore Becky Gundling. A holding midfielder who started 19 games last season as a freshman, Gundling is an aggressive, disruptive presence. Sunday, she was a little too aggressive -- giving away two fouls just outside of her own 18-yard-box in the second half -- but it's better to be making too many plays in August than too few. "She did a good job today," coach Len Tsantiris said. "She's very good; she's a ball winner. We need to work on her to keep the ball and not commit silly fouls. That's what we're going to work on. She's an aggressive kid, so it's very tough -- she's going to make the fouls, so it's just to pick and choose when."

Around the nation
• Corey Clark details Florida State's strong 4-1 exhibition win against Georgia. With Mami Yamaguchi's early departure to play for Umea in Sweden, the Seminoles have a lot of offense to replace, and the freshmen stepped up against the Bulldogs.

• I talked to FSU senior Erika Sutton during her stint with Tony DiCicco's WPSL team this summer, and even amidst that team's playoff run, she needed about 10 seconds to list the incoming freshman class as one of the biggest reasons she was excited about the fall.

• Nate Mink has an interesting story on former Penn State soccer standout Aubrey Aden-Buie suiting up for the school's field hockey team this fall. Granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Aden-Buie elected to finish up her degree this fall in order to play the sport she gave up after high school to focus on soccer.

• Notre Dame rested Brittany Bock and Kelsey Lysander, among others, in a 2-1 exhibition loss to Virginia, according to The South Bend Tribune.

• The Tuscaloosa News checks in on Alabama's exhibition romp against Jackson State, including a quick start for Victoria Frederick as she looks to avoid a sophomore slump.

Boston College freshman shines

STORRS, Conn. -- No. 11 Connecticut 2, No. 14 Boston College 1 (exhibition)

Goals: Sarah Stanczyk, Connecticut (39th minute); Elise Fugowski, Connecticut (43rd minute); Julia Bouchelle, Boston College (69th minute).

The last time these former Big East rivals met, Connecticut upset its northern neighbor in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament. Sunday's exhibition in Storrs didn't have the same stakes or the same crispness of play, but by the time the referee approached Boston College's bench late in the first half to discuss things, the game had already looked more physical than a typical preseason exhibition.

The Eagles came up on the short end of the scoreboard, but Julia Bouchelle, Alaina Beyar, Alyssa Pember and Jillian Mastroianni, all members of a vaunted freshman class ranked among the best in the nation, looked the part of prized recruits.

Physically unimposing at a willowy 5-foot-5, Bouchelle still stood out from the get-go in the midfield, making a number of poised reads and, just as importantly, following them up with precise passes to the feet of teammates during her team's otherwise lackluster opening half.

And when the ball found its way to her feet in front of an open net following a rebound off the post in the second half, she calmly waited half a beat to settle a high bounce and then drove the ball home. "She was fantastic," coach Alison Kulik said. "The way she played today is indicative of her whole preseason. We've been looking for a No. 10, an attacking center midfielder that can dictate the flow of the game but also finish and set people up. That's what she was brought in to do, and I think she's prepared to do and ready to do it."

In addition to the promising freshmen, Boston College has most of its roster back from last season, but the Eagles need to start converting their collective talent into goals. Sunday's effort, especially during an aggressive second half, offered hope for just that. And yet after scoring just once in 110 minutes (the teams agreed to play two additional 10-minute periods after regulation), Kulik acknowledged it's still a work in progress. "We've been really dynamic [in preseason], looking like a much more dangerous team for sure," Kulik said. "I don't think we did a good enough job putting the ball away today to prove that, because at the end of the day, the score line is the score line. You outshoot someone by 15 shots in a half, and it really doesn't matter. But I do feel really good from our preseason at our ability to be more dynamic and dangerous around goal."

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.



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