Redshirt sophomore Kayla Williams and the Huskies (10-10, 3-5) volleyball team will take on SMU (13-6, 7-1) Friday at 7 p.m. and Tulsa (9-11, 3-5) Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Guyer gymnasium on campus.
Williams was named to the American Honor Roll for the second time this year after she recorded her 10th double-double of the season against USF. The outside hitter recorded 19 kills and 17 digs.
UConn has dropped the first match of the weekend, each of the past three weekends. UConn head coach Kris Grunwald said that the issue has been discussed.
“Part of it is that two of those losses have been on the road and it’s long travel,” Grunwald said. “But every team has to deal with those same obstacles.”
Grunwald said that the team’s ability to bounce back after a loss is impressive.
“This season could have been a lot more difficult than it is (because of key injuries),” Grunwald said. “A lot of that has to do with the personalities, competitiveness and the demeanor of this team.”
SMU is coming off a victory against Memphis and a loss to No. 22 Witchita State. The team has a strong defense and they have accumulated 98 total blocks. Montana Watts leads the team with 202 digs, while Lauren Mills leads the team with 153 kills and 17 service aces.
Huskies junior Emma Turner said the team is confident coming off their Sunday win.
“Against USF, we played one of the cleanest games of the season,” Turner said. “Coming into this week, that confidence has really helped. We have a super hard weekend coming up, but I think we are ready to show how far we have come.”
On the season, UConn has had several players step up for them amid injuries. Freshman outside hitter Ally Barrett has excelled and is second to Williams in kills with 126. Turner will most likely surpass her career high in assists of 717 over the weekend, as she has 695 this season.
“A huge goal of mine coming into the season, was focusing on passing 850 (assists) and I think that I am really approaching that with the second half of conference play coming up,” Turner said.
Tulsa is coming off a sweep against No. 22 Witchita State. Their offense is propelled by Emily Thorson, who has 314 kills – good for 33 in the nation. The defense is maintained by Taylor Horsfall, who is sixth in the nation with 463 digs.
Defensively for UConn, senior Tosin Adeniyi has slammed 12 block solos and junior Kennedy Arundel leads the team with 262 digs. They have a tall task this weekend, as they will try to slow down Tulsa’s Thorson.
“Against Tulsa, they probably have the scrappiest defense in the conference,” Grunwald said. “They can really frustrate an offense… we have to stay strong willed and positive against them.”
For the rest of the season, Turner said the team is focusing on sending a message to the critics.
“People have really underestimated us and I think we just want to show how hard we’ve been working and how underestimating us is a mistake,” Turner said.
Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.