STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a commanding 3-0 victory against James Madison in the NCAA third round at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. UConn improved to 19-3-2 while James Madison ended their season at 13-5-2.
With the victory, UConn will now host either Akron or Charlotte in the NCAA quarterfinals. The time of that game is to be determined. This will mark UConn’s 11th NCAA quarterfinal appearance and the first since 2007.
Sunday’s shutout marked a program record for the Huskies with 16 clean sheets. That mark surpassed the 15 set by the 2000 NCAA Championship team. The UConn defense was sensational as freshman Andre Blake, the Big East goalkeeper of the year, wasn’t required to make a save on the day.
Junior Carlos Alvarez and senior Tony Cascio each finished with a goal and an assist with Alvarez netting the game winner. Mamadou Doudou Diouf also scored for UConn.
Alvarez found space in the midfield throughout the contest and picked the JMU defense apart, consistently combining with Tony Cascio and Mamadou Doudou Diouf.
“Carlos was strong today. He played well. Found the spaces. He has been strong all year though, not just today. If it’s not him, it’s Cascio, it’s Mamadou, it’s Andre Blake and Andrew Jean-Baptiste,” said UConn Head Coach Ray Reid.
“We know what it takes to win. Our chemistry is so strong. We all love each other. Everything we do, we do as a team. We are brothers,” Alvarez said.
James Madison earned two corner kicks in the opening five minutes but it was the Huskies with the best chance of the early action. Tony Cascio and Mamadou Doudou Diouf played a give-and-go 10 yards from half. Diouf played Cascio in behind the defense but JMU keeper Justin Epperson outraced the UConn senior to pounce on the potential breakaway.
Alvarez put UConn ahead at 18:27 with his sixth goal of the season. Cascio found Alvarez with a through ball on the right side before the UConn junior captain blasted a right-footed shot towards the far post into the top-left corner. The assist was Cascio’s eighth of the season.
“I made a run, he hit a great ball and I did what I do best – bury it,” Alvarez said.
Cascio had another quality chance in the 21st minute after beating a defender at the top of the box but his shot was pulled wide right.
Connecticut dominated on the defensive end and in the midfield in the opening 45 minutes. James Madison finished the first half with just one shot attempt compared to UConn’s eight.
Cascio continued to pressure on the right side in the opening minutes of play in the second half. Cascio chipped a ball from the end line to Alvarez at the top of the box 10 minutes into the half only to have Alvarez lose his footing at the 18, squandering the opportunity.
Alvarez had another dangerous chance at 56:50 but his one-time shot from 18 yards out straight on went high.
Alvarez worked a near brilliant goal in the 60th minute, taking on several defenders beginning at midfield before putting a shot wide right from 16 yards out.
Connecticut put the game away with two goals in a two-minute stretch beginning at 62:16. Diouf came in on the JMU net all alone, touched to his left and was taken down in the box before getting his shot off into the empty net.
Diouf stepped up to the penalty spot for the second game in a row. JMU keeper Justin Epperson saved the attempt but the rebound came straight back to Diouf who blasted it into the open net for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Cascio put the game out of reach with his fourth goal of the season slotted into the left side after a pass from Alvarez at 64:18.
It would have been 4-0, but JMU defender Adam Bastidas raced to save the ball off the line after a chip by Allanda Matheson in the waning minutes.
UConn finished with a 16-5 edge in shots while both teams recorded three corner kicks.