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Stickers return to semis

STORRS — The top-ranked University of Connecticut field hockey team is headed back to the NCAA tournament semifinals for the fifth consecutive year after overpowering No. 6 Penn State in a 4-3 thriller in the Elite 8 on Sunday afternoon at the Sherman Family Complex.

“We are very thrilled with our win today,” said UConn coach Nancy Stevens. “Four goals by the offense was just incredible. There really were some brilliant goals out there today.

“Defensively, we tipped in two of Penn State’s goals, which is disappointing, but it happens so now we head into the Final Four knowing we only gave up one goal in the game and we are in a good place.”

The Huskies (21-0) face No. 4 North Carolina (18-4) in the semifinals on Friday at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. The two teams have meet in the semifinals twice in the past four years as the squads are even at 1-1 heading into Friday’s match-up.

“A lot of credit goes to Penn State. First, they were down 2-0 and fought back before finding themselves down 4-2 and fought back again,” Stevens said. “What a great college game, after watching this game I think people will learn to love the sport as we do.”

In a game that saw seven combined goals, two ESPN top-10 worthy tallies and a nail-biting finish, UConn and Penn State provided everything a top-10 match-up and NCAA tournament game should. In the end, as it has all season, UConn’s offense guided the Huskies to yet another victory.

Senior Charlotte Veitner led the way with three points (goal, assist) while four different Huskies scored and it marked the ninth time the nation’s leading offense has scored four or more goals this season.

UConn stormed out to a 2-0 advantage following scores from senior Casey Umstead and Svea Boker at 4:46 and 17:58, respectively. Penn State later retaliated with its own 2-0 scoring run to knot matters at 2-all heading into half time.

Again, the Huskies would post back-to-back goals to extend its lead to two, 4-2, against the Nittany Lions. Sophomore Barbara van den Hoogen notched the game-winner in the 52nd minute when she put the Huskies up permanently, 4-2, at 51:06. Never quitting, a tough Penn State offense would get one back at 55:03 thanks to Abby’s Myers second tally on the year.

Goalkeeper Nina Klein and the UConn defense held tight in the final 25 minutes, denying the Nittany Lions any opportunity to even the score. With seven seconds remaining, Umstead would execute a perfect stick tackle before sending a high pass into the air just as the final buzzer sounded as the Huskies secured the program’s 15th trip to the NCAA semifinals.

 

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