The UConn women’s volleyball team took on Tulane and Memphis this weekend. The three teams were right next to each other in the conference standings, meaning each match had a little extra significance to it.
The Huskies (11-11, 3-6 The American) were bested in both games, losing in straight sets to Tulane (17-7, 5-4 The American) and Memphis (10-11, 3-6 The American) in a tightly contested match that went five sets after UConn fought back from a 2-0 deficit.
UConn head coach Kris Grunwald understands how quickly things can change hands throughout a match.
“I’ve been in enough opportunities to know that the only thing that matters is that last 15 minutes in that 15-point game,” Grunwald said. “The way momentum shifts in volleyball, you can’t be certain that you’re gonna carry it over and you can’t be certain if you’re on the other side of the coin, so it’s a matter of going back out there and knowing that the only thing that matters is what happens going forward in that short little time span.”
Although the Huskies ended this weekend without a victory, there is at least one positive take away from the games, and that is the strong performances of the Huskies’ freshmen. Outside hitters Caylee Parker and Anna Petrova, and middle blocker Kennadie Jake-Turner put on a show this weekend, particularly against Memphis.
“Where we were two months ago, those guys have grown incredibly,” said Grunwald. “KJ started the year on the bench [now] she’s in the middle position with the most responsibilities, so what she’s done in that time frame is really good. And Caylee brings us a lot of physicality out there.”
In Sunday’s brawl, Parker, Jake-Turner and Petrova rounded out the top three point-scorers for the Huskies. Parker finished the match with a game-high 21 kills and a career best four blocks. KJ finished just behind Parker with a career-high 16 kills, as well as rejecting a game best seven attacks. Petrova also had a great offensive game, adding another 16 kills on a .406 hitting percentage while also chipping in two blocks. These three combined totaled more kills and total blocks than all of Memphis’ players combined in what was a very impressive game for the first-year players.
Grunwald isn’t quite ready to look to the future yet though. The Huskies have nine more games in their season, and he hopes the get the best out of his team, both new and old faces, to end the year on a high note. But to do that, Grunwald said the players have to believe in their abilities.
“We’ve got some people who are playing a little timid that get caught up in paralyzing themselves with some of the issues that they’re having just from the mental side of things,” said Grunwald. “There’s really no reason for that. We [need to] go out there like we’ve got nothing to lose. More than anything it’s just about this group going out there and playing without any fear. There’s no reason to be afraid.”
Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Kansas to match up with Wichita State on Friday, Oct. 26, and then a quick turnaround to Oklahoma for a game against Tulsa on Sunday, Oct. 28. UConn hopes to rebound from what was a tough weekend overall, with one of the lone bright spots being the strong play of Parker, Jake-Turner and Petrova.
Conner Gilson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.