Last season, the UConn Huskies struggled with injuries and as a result, their record suffered. Finishing with a conference record of 4-16 and an overall record of 11-21, the Huskies came into the season with something to prove.
“This year, the chemistry is awesome,” head coach Kris Grunwald said. “Our seniors have done an unbelievable job in their three and a half years by helping to establish that, and making sure what we are establishing in the office and in the gym are also being established in the locker room is huge.”
This year, the Huskies lost Tosin Adeniyi and Kenya Cason to graduation, while also losing one of their top scorers, Kayla Williams, after she transferred to North Dakota.
The Huskies brought in five newcomers including freshman Caylee Parker, who has not only excelled on the court, but has been a major contributor in changing the mood in the locker room.
“I think last year, there were a lot of things in the locker room going on that we never really got settled, along with all of the injuries that we had to deal with,” Grunwald said.
Among the injuries that occurred last season, Danielle Cabel tore her ACL, which caused her to miss most of the season, and Kenya Cason missed most of the year due to an injury. Now, the Huskies are at 6-4 with conference play beginning on Sept. 21.
“Looking back at the Syracuse match, we played the highest level of volleyball since we’ve been here; that was awesome,” Grunwald said of the team’s five-set loss. “But we don’t have that competitive maturity to do that on a consistent basis.”
Grunwald said that he anticipates the team will gain maturity through their preparation and maintaining their high level of play.
Parker, who has been named to the American Conference Honor Roll twice for her stellar play, leads the team with 142 total kills and 3.94 kills per set (third in conference). She said that senior Emma Turner has played a pivotal role in making her feel comfortable on the team.
The freshman from Ontario said that Turner would pretend to be angry with her, only to laugh it off and then repeat that over and over again. This has enabled her to feel comfortable within the team and develop a close friendship with one of the senior leaders.
Grunwald said that the group of seniors- Turner, Cabel, Elizabeth Kline, Kennedy Arundel and Iman McGary- are special.
“My hope is that we have a really good year in conference play,” Grunwald said. “Because that group deserves it more than any I’ve ever been around and the work that they have put in to change the culture.”
Grunwald reached a personal milestone of 100 career wins as a head coach once the team completed their four-set win against Iona. But if you ask the team, he didn’t even know about it.
“One of the parents told him,” Parker said. “Then we found out as a team and we were waiting for him to come in for dinner and as he came in we all started clapping and cheering for him and being obnoxiously loud. He said, ‘Why are you guys cheering?’ and we said, ‘You got your 100th win,’ and he wasn’t even phased. It was pretty funny.”
The Huskies’ next match comes on Friday as they take on Holy Cross at 12:30 p.m. during the Dog Pound Challenge. Dogs will be up for adoption from a local animal shelter Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.