COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Late in the first half, Connecticut’s star freshman Charlotte Veitner leaned forward and corralled the ball on her stick. She controlled it in the corner for several seconds before deciding on her next move.
As she drove along the baseline, Syracuse defender Lies Lagerweij planted her 6-foot-1 body in front of Veitner’s path and knocked her off balance. The referee, standing only a few feet away, blew his whistle and pointed to the front of the net for a penalty corner.McKenzi Townsend scored for Connecticut on the ensuing play to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. And that’s all the scoring the defending champions needed to stay perched atop the college field hockey throne, as UConn held on to defeat Syracuse 1-0 in a thrilling match Sunday to win its second consecutive national championship and fourth in school history.
And has been the case all year long, first-year phenom Vietner played a large role in her team’s success -- even if she didn’t appear on the game’s score sheet.
“She’s a gifted attacker for us,” UConn head coach Nancy Stevens said. “She is very crafty. She had a nice deceptive move and the defender went for it.”
Drawing that penalty corner proved to be decisive for the Huskies, who were held to only four shots -- the lowest number for any winner of a semifinal or final game in NCAA history.
“We’re very judicious with our attack,” Stevens quipped with a grin. Stevens called Lagerweij Syracuse’s “lock on the door” and said that she knew UConn’s goals were probably going to have to come from corners.
“I tried to go along the baseline and she just fouled me,” Veitner said of the play. “We have so much confidence in our penalty corners because they’ve been good throughout the whole season. I was just really confident that it could be a goal.”
Veitner, a native of Dusseldorf, Germany, committed to play for Connecticut only a couple months before the academic year started. Recruited by more than two dozen schools, Veitner says she’s glad she chose to enroll at UConn.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I’m so glad I’m came here and get to play with all of these players. It’s so much fun and I’m just grateful to be here.
“Whenever we go out on the pitch, we just play for each other and we just play our hearts out.”
Veitner said she told her father earlier in the season that if she makes it to the final four, he had to come. He agreed and flew nearly 4,000 miles to see his daughter play this weekend. “It’s obviously very exciting [for him to be here],” she said.Vietner was UConn’s leading scorer this season, registering 18 goals and 13 assists in 23 games. She led the Huskies with 50 shots on goal and five game-winners.
“We’ve been working since August to get here,” UConn goalie Nina Klein said.
Klein shut out Albany on Friday before duplicating that feat again against the Orange on Sunday.
“This is what we play for,” Townsend said. “It’s a dream to even come to a Division I school. And then your dreams get bigger and you want to win the national title. And then you’re here one time and you’re like, ‘I can’t get better than this.’ To be back here again feels great.”
The Huskies may have repeated as champions, but there's no consideration of any future title defense or three-peat.
”I’m not thinking about next year or whatever comes in the future,” Veitner said, while donning her new national champion T-shirt and hat. “We’re just enjoying this moment. We don’t know if it will happen again. We shouldn’t take it for granted.”