Freshmen Caylee Parker and Anna Petrova and sophomores Isabelle Peterson and Genna Florig have UConn fans excited for the future of UConn volleyball. The young players put up strong performances over the weekend, leading the Huskies to a 2-1 record in the UConn Challenge and a 5-2 record overall.
The Huskies’ first game of the tournament was against the University of New Hampshire. There was a lot of back and forth in this game, as the game was tied 26 times with 11 lead changes throughout the match. UConn’s offense was struggling, and no one had a hitting percentage over .300. Then in stepped freshman outside hitter Petrova.
Petrova came in for the final two sets and tallied eight kills on a .385 hitting percentage, as well as five digs, proving she could help on both the offensive and defensive end when it was needed the most. The Huskies won this match in four sets, in no small part due to Petrova’s contributions, despite only playing in two sets.
After UNH, UConn took on the Iona Gaels that same night. This game was incredibly back and forth, as the Huskies took a 6-1 lead in the first set, but later on gave up an 8-0 run to the Gaels. I asked senior setter Emma Turner how they handle this type of game.
“Going into the timeouts, the coaches are drawing up plays, they’re giving us what we’re doing wrong, what we’re doing well,” said Turner. “We do have a couple new members, but this is a very upperclassmen led team and I think just a lot of experience is what’s keeping us composed.”
Two names that really stood out in this back and forth game, however, were freshman outside hitter Parker and sophomore middle blocker Peterson.
Parker was able to get her second double-double of the season, totaling 16 kills and 16 digs on the day. She has been a consistent force thus far for the Huskies, and that did not change this weekend. Her 16 kills were her second-highest total of the season to that point and her 16 digs were a season-high for the freshman.
The biggest surprise of the second match was the performance by Peterson. She entered the game with a fire that really powered this team through the game. Peterson totaled 12 kills, with a very impressive .556 hitting percentage, as well as six blocks, both of which were career highs.
Turner praised the young players, and told us what they bring to this team.
“I think it impacts us in a huge way because you see them and you see how hard they’ve been working. They’re coming in and even though they’ve only been here for a year or two we just get really excited about them succeeding so much. We like our underclassmen to get really fired up.”
The last game of the tournament was against Syracuse, and with it came the heartbreaking loss in five sets, after UConn won the first two. There were definitely still positives to take out of it. For example, red shirt sophomore Florig and Petrova has outstanding games.
Florig tallied an impressive nine kills and eight total blocks against the Orange, while Petrova achieved a new career high with 16 kills and her second-highest total of seven digs during the match. These two provided the majority of the Huskies’ points against the Orange, Florig dominated the defensive end, while Petrova had the best offensive game of her career.
Huskies head coach Kris Grunwald knew the match was going to be a tough one going in, and despite the loss was still happy with the way his team played.
“One of the issues we’ve had was trying to focus on the big picture so early in the season. Yesterday, we came away with a win, but we weren’t necessarily very happy with the process. I don’t think we were really gelling, I don’t think we really played all that well . We came away with a win, but we talk about our systems and our responsibilities, I don’t think we were really good there,” said Grunwald. “Then we take a team like Syracuse who’s much more physical, in the big picture, we are much happier with how we did today because we talked about our responsibilities and defending a team like that is obviously much harder.”
So while the new faces on the Huskies team still have room for growth, it is good for fans to know that the team is in safe hands for years to come, as these freshmen and sophomores will hope to make an immediate impact both this season and for the seasons to come. Many of these underclassmen performed well this past weekend, proving they have what it takes to help this team in any way that they need it. As Coach Grunwald said, “It’s kind of silly, but it still comes down to a very basic serving and passing.” The Huskies have a lot to build on after another successful weekend of play.
Conner Gilson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.