A year ago, UConn lost to Tulsa on penalty kicks in the AAC men's soccer tournament championship.
Sebastian Brems, then a junior, converted his attempt, but the last two Huskies in the shootout did not and the title slipped away.
"This time of year it comes back," Brems said Wednesday. "Even though we beat them in the regular season this year, we know what happened last year. And all the guys are back. We remember."
UConn (11-6-1) will get another shot against Tulsa (9-4-4) in the AAC Tournament Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Tampa, Fla. The Huskies play the Golden Hurricane in the first of two semifinals on the South Florida Campus. Central Florida plays top-seeded South Florida in the second semifinal after the UConn game.
"These guys all year have handled adversity and responded well," UConn coach Ray Reid said. "They've answered the challenge every time. This group is a resilient, tough group, so we're looking forward to seeing what they have."
The Huskies haven't won a conference tournament in nine years and have never won an AAC Tournament.
"We need to get some hardware and that's what to me UConn is about," UConn junior Andrew Geres said.
As the Huskies take on Tulsa, a team they beat 1-0 earlier in the year, they find themselves in a familiar position. The Huskies are once again fighting for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. At last year's conference tournament, UConn defeated South Florida in the semifinals 2-1 to help its postseason cause. A few days later, the NCAA Tournament committee picked the Huskies as an at-large team.
"It is just like last year, but this year we have a better team," Brems said. "We have a couple more players on the bench that can come in and make a difference and we basically have the same team as last year. It is basically that experience [that helps us]."
It is highly unlikely the Huskies will receive an at-large bid this season, but a win against Tulsa in the semifinal increases the shot of getting a surprise invite from the committee.
"We've got enough guys that have been around the block and understand what is at stake right now," Reid said.
A conference championship guarantees a return to the tournament for the 17th time in 18 seasons.
"I think what we need to focus on at the end of the day is that we set a goal for the season and that was to win our conference," Geres said. "Our goal is to win the conference."
The Huskies have a done well handling pressure this season. Last Saturday, UConn needed a win or a tie against SMU to advance to the semifinals and keep playing soccer. It held on for a 1-1 tie against the Mustangs. UConn also defeated Boston College in overtime in a must-win game against a quality opponent and won road games against Rhode Island, Providence and Tulsa.
Providence won the Big East regular season title this season and Boston College lost in the ACC Tournament semifinals to Clemson after beating North Carolina.
"I think those two wins are pushing us ahead more than we initially thought," Geres said.
On its way to a season-best, seven-game win streak, UConn defeated Tulsa 1-0 on Oct. 1. It was the third of five straight shutout wins. But the Golden Hurricane will have a new look when it takes the field in Florida. In last few games, Tulsa has changed formations, utilizing a more aggressive 3-5-2 scheme to the benefit of playmaker Ray Saari. The formation pushes the Tulsa wing backs up and crowds the midfield.
"We're going to have be very disciplined in this game and very focused," Reid said. "Tulsa is dangerous. They play a very unorthodox style of 3-5-2. Like in basketball, it is sort of like fast breaks. They pose a match-up challenge, but I think we'll give them some challenges, too."
Tulsa is one of the few teams in the nation to use the formation. And the Huskies haven't faced it much. Last season, Boston University and Syracuse (in an exhibition game) were the only teams to try it against UConn.
The Terriers had success when they used it against UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but eventually, UConn came through with a 3-1 victory.