The end is near. It’s hard to believe that after four long years of my life, my time at the University of Connecticut is basically over. A few more classes to attend, a few exams to take, one graduation to walk – and that’s it. Four years gone in the blink of an eye.
The things I’ve seen and done at UConn are things that can only be experienced here. I don’t think there’s another school in the country as committed to building its athletic programs. UConn already has some of the best teams in the nation, and from what I’ve seen, there’s no limit to how successful UConn athletics can be.
I watched our women’s basketball team win not one, not two, not three, but FOUR straight national championships. This period of dominance is unlike anything I’ve seen in the sports world, and I don’t think there’s any question that this is up there with the most impressive dynasties in sports history.
The team is no lock to win next year’s championship. The void left by Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson opens the door for other teams to step in and make a run at the trophy. But as long as Geno Auriemma has a say in the matter, expect UConn to be right in the mix at the end of the season – as they have been for the last 20 years.
I saw the men’s basketball team once again shock the world in 2014 – one season after a postseason ban for low academic scores years before. Then again, maybe UConn’s immortal run to their fourth national championship didn’t come as a surprise. As we’ve seen so many times before, the Huskies save their best basketball for when it matters most.
Though the team missed out the following season, they rebounded this year, making a late push to secure their spot in the 2016 tournament. Kevin Ollie’s coaching résumé continues to grow, and he is bringing in top talent from around the country. Ollie inherited what Jim Calhoun built and has continued to improve the atmosphere of basketball in Storrs. There is nobody I’d rather have as the head coach of my team.
I saw a football program fall apart and rise up from the ashes under the leadership of a man who wants to rid the UConn football program of “energy vampires.” Bob Diaco is a breath of fresh air for a program that had really stagnated after Randy Edsall’s departure. Diaco has the charisma and ability to get the football program back on the right track.
Covering the men’s hockey team, I spent a lot of time around head coach Mike Cavanaugh and his talented core of young players. Record wise, the Icebus didn’t see a significant improvement from last year. In fact, the Huskies finished with a worse conference record in 2015-16 than they did last year – their first year in Hockey East.
But there was a different feel this year. UConn’s best players were freshman, dazzling crowds at the XL Center with flashy, electric play. The Huskies battled their way to a home series in the first round of the Hockey East Playoffs, falling to Vermont in two tightly contested games.
Though the Icebus came to a halt short of Cavanaugh’s hopes for the season, there’s every reason to think that the Huskies will only get better. Hockey East is the perfect platform for the team to rise to the national stage. UConn is a large institution, and Hockey East is the top conference for college hockey. There’s a reason UConn got the invite.
Cavanaugh has been pulling in some of the best recruits in the country, most recently securing Nik Allain, son of Yale hockey coach Keith Allain, and Adam Huska, a goaltender from Slovenia who was the top goaltender in the USHL last year.
Cavanaugh still has a lot of room to grow as a coach. Though he was a long-time assistant, UConn is his first true head coaching job. His situation is not unlike Kevin Ollie’s – a new head coach trying to build a program in his own vision. Both have done well in their first few seasons, both have brought top recruits to the school. The only difference is the national championship trophy that sits in Kevin Ollie’s office.
With Mike Cavanaugh at the helm, it won’t be long until the Icebus is competing for one of those too.
I’ve only written for The Daily Campus for two years, but during my (seemingly) brief time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the coolest people at UConn – the coaches and athletes that make UConn sports so fun.
All the coaches and athletes I’ve met have been an absolute pleasure to work with. They are passionate and knowledgeable about their sports, and they made writing my countless articles incredibly easy. Whether it was cross country coach Greg Roy telling us that his underdog team was going to try to “punch [the opposition] in the mouth”, or softball coach Jen McIntyre dissecting the way her team approaches their at-bats, I never lacked for quality content to work into my writing.
Thank you to all of my friends and fellow Daily Campus employees who have made writing for the paper a valuable part of my UConn experience. My only regret is that I started writing during my junior year instead of my freshman one.
UConn’s athletics will forever be trending upwards. Although I won’t be on campus for the inevitable success the future holds, I look forward to supporting them every step of the way. Go Huskies.
Pete Harasyko is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.