By Justin Loring, Sports editor

Cameron  Johnson/STAFF Aggie Sutherland (6) and Emma Compagna (21) follow the ball downfield against Drexel last week.

Cameron Johnson/STAFF
Aggie Sutherland (6) and Emma Compagna (21) follow the ball downfield against Drexel last week.

Despite its substandard overall record, the UNH field hockey team is looking to upend defending national champion Connecticut. For the third year in a row, UNH has started 1-3 and are taking on the No. 2 team in the country. In 2012, the Wildcats held a 2-1 lead against Syracuse until allowing two goals in the final 10 minutes to fall 3-2 and last season opened against Maryland, where they lost 8-4.

The Huskies are coming off a weekend in which they beat No. 8 Penn State 1-0 in overtime, and then rolled to a 4-0 win over Columbia. UNH and UConn have met 32 times since 1977, with the Huskies owning a 19-9-4 advantage, but UNH has managed a .500 record when playing in the Granite State (4-4-2). The last meeting took place in Storrs, Conn., with UConn capturing a 3-2 victory in double overtime. UConn boasts the most penalty corners per game in the nation (14.0) while freshman netminder Nina Klein is fifth in the nation in save percentage (.857).

“We really try to possess the ball, and then break with speed,” UNH head coach Robin Balducci said.  “We’ve gotta make sure we’re able to play that combination instead of it being a track-meet; running up and down the field.”

After they take on Connecticut, the Wildcats will make the short trip to Boston on Sunday where they will face Northeastern.  The Huskies own a record of 1-2, having lost to No. 1 Maryland and Temple, but beat Providence last Sunday. The Wildcats haven’t lost to the Huskies since 2009. Northeastern is coached by former UNH alumna Cheryl Murtaugh.

UNH was able to capture its first victory of the season last week when they took down Drexel 1-0 at home. Meg Flatley scored the game’s only goal in the 62nd minute. The Wildcats were outshot 16-8 in that game and Balducci was happy with the team’s effort.

“They were hungry, they were agitated last week [after losing twice], so as a coach I didn’t have to do too much from the perspective.”

Carlie Tarbell made 10 saves on Friday and then made five saves against No. 12 Stanford. Tarbell was able to hold the Cardinal scoreless through regulation, a team that averages 3.00 goals per game. She was named America East Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts, the ninth time in her career she has earned that accolade.

Follow Justin Loring on Twitter at @JLo_TNH