Only one team can sit atop the Big East Conference in NCAA field hockey, so when the University of Connecticut Huskies host the Liberty University Flames on Thursday night, a first-place position will be at stake.
Liberty and UConn have a storied, albeit lopsided, history with each other. The Huskies have won all four of their all-time matches against the Flames, with Liberty 0-2 in regular-season showdowns and 0-2 in Big East Tournament title matches. The last time both sides clashed, UConn claimed the 2017 Big East Field Hockey Championship with a victory at the final in Rhode Island.
Yet as the Huskies and Flames prepare for their next collision, it’s anyone’s guess as to who has the edge entering Thursday night’s critical conference showdown from the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex.
UConn has been a national darling in the field hockey spotlight, rising as high as No. 2 on the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll during a 10-0 start to its 2018 season. And their elite scoring attack, which racked up five-goal outings on the win streak, has helped them go 5-0 in conference matches. But the Huskies are on a bit of a downward trend thanks to their formidable schedule of late, slipping to No. 5 in the coaches’ poll after a 2-3 stretch that included three straight losses to ranked opponents — Maryland, Princeton and North Carolina. Two of their three losses on the year have also come at home.
Liberty, meanwhile, has been surging as it approaches a top-15 ranking. The Flames have won seven of their last nine, with one of the losses ending in double overtime against No. 14 Wake Forest and the other coming against No. 1 UNC. Also undefeated in five Big East matches, Liberty has also found much of its success on the road, going 6-1 in away games. Behind the production of senior Agueda Moroni, who leads the nation in goals and points per game, the Flames have also outscored opponents 24-4 in Big East matches, upping their all-time conference record to 15-4.
The winner of Thursday’s showdown will claim sole possession of first place in the conference for the stretch run. Here’s how to tune in:
How to watch
Date: Thursday, Oct. 18
Time: 6 p.m. Eastern
Location: George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex (Storrs, Connecticut)