For the second straight year, the University of Connecticut Huskies (7-1) dominated the Dog Pound Challenge, winning all three matches over the weekend without dropping a single set.
Since late November of 2014, the Huskies have been unparalleled in Gampel Pavilion, posting a 15-4 record. Over the weekend, UConn was composed and unrelenting, as their close margin of victory in a set was six points, and they won six of the nine sets by a double-digit margin.
In their first match of the tournament, the Huskies squared off against the Loyola Maryland Bulldogs, winning, 25-16, 25-11 and 25-14. The scores made the match closer then it seemed, as UConn put up 49 kills in comparison to Loyola’s 19, and held a 43-17 assists advantage. Four different Huskies had nine or more kills, with junior Danielle Cabel and redshirt freshman Kayla Williams each having 11.
With this weekends’ win, the Huskies moved to five wins so far this season, and head coach Kris Grunwald is very happy with the early season success. He feels he and the coaching staff have, “created a culture in the gym and have collectively, as a group, have taken the next step in who we are as a team and, more importantly, how we do things on a daily basis.” He also went on to say that, “we are making strides, getting better and better every day,” as the Huskies started their home campaign with a big win.
Nine hours after their win on Friday, the Huskies squared off against the Yale Bulldogs, winning again with scores of 25-13, 25-12 and 25-19. Going into the tournament, Yale was considered the most likely to give UConn the biggest challenge, as they have won the Ivy League five times since 2010.
The Bulldogs had no answer for Williams, who had 17 kills on 29 attacks, and also 11 digs in the match. Williams had herself a day on Friday, posting 28 kills and, in a very veteran move, gave all the credit to her teammates when she said, “I had my teammates behind me, they gave me confidence and I was able to go out there and do what I love to do.”
After two wins in one day, UConn had one more match to go on Saturday, against the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, where after a close first set, the Huskies, 25-18, dominated the final two sets with scores of 25-12 and 25-8. UConn had a 42-20 advantage in kills and a 35-19 edge in assists, as the Huskies trailed just once in the set. Coach Grunwald was very pleased with the weekend as he said, “when we look at the big picture, and I am a tough grader, we made some great strides… I would give us an ‘A’ on the weekend, but in a hope that the ‘A’ is another building block in where we can be down the road.”
With three wins in three matches, UConn won the Dog Pound Challenge and had three players, Kayla Williams (MVP), senior Hayley Cmajdalka and junior Tosin Adeniyi named on the All-Tournament team.
The Huskies were the best team as Williams put it best when she said, “we are going to keep going out there and playing hard, it’s about having fun, we enjoyed ourselves and it has really showed.”
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn volleyball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.