When talking about graduating senior captains Elizabeth Kline and Emma Turner, head coach Kris Grunwald makes one thing clear: they are the corner stones of UConn volleyball. This group of seniors helped build a culture under Kris Grunwald that has been unmatched in his tenure here. Through their endless work ethic and desire to go the extra step, they have helped create a family atmosphere in the locker room.
“They have established what a volleyball player ought to be thinking, how they ought to act, and what they represent,” said Grunwald.
Second-team all-conference, defensive player of the week, captain, third all-time in assists in UConn history, 500 digs in a season and so forth. These are some of the accolades these two women have accomplished in their time here. However, they care more about what they have done within the locker room than what their statistics reflect. Beyond the numbers, they are proud of the people they have become and the level of expectations they set for the other women around them.
“Their work ethic is the greatest on the team,” said assist coach Matt Scott. “They are constantly pushing to not only get more out of the team, but also knowing when the right moment is to put their arm around someone and pick them and their spirits up.”
They displayed unmatched work ethic and competitiveness, truly becoming a model for future classes of volleyball players to come. Kline, a walk-on, was named captain her sophomore year by her peers. Turner, also a captain, made it a personal goal to get to know the younger girls on the team this season even though she was only going to be with them for one year.
Both players noted having experienced locker room tension earlier in their UConn careers and have since made a point of doing whatever possible to avoid that in their last seasons.
Turner said her legacy is “Leaving behind a culture where it is fine being yourself, no one is judging you and you are accepted as a person.”
“The foundation of a program starts with good people, that’s what allows you to move forward,” said coach Grunwald. “…in a fun, competitive way who they were as people and what they brought to the table every day, I am really going to miss.”
While yes, people will miss them for their efforts on the court and in the locker room, they will also miss the personalities behind that work ethic. The smiles, the energy, the drive to be and do better, the care for their teammates. All of it.
“Even though I am a freshman, they made me feel like family,” a teary-eyed Caylee Parker said. “They kind of took me under their wing, so I am going to miss the big sister feeling.”
In every strong family there is a support system in place that allows it to be successful; there is a foundation. The two captains threw everything they had into the locker room so it would become a family.
Everything from joking about Parker’s Canadian heritage—she confirmed that her tears are in fact made of maple syrup- to being there for the younger girls when they were worried about their daily statistics and playing time. They were the self-proclaimed “team-moms,” and they have done everything possible to prepare their “kids” for future success.
At the very beginning of the season, one thing was clear to coach Grunwald: This team was going to be the foundation of the program. He had the entire team sign the wall beneath Gampel Pavilion as a way to bring across this message. Little did he know this team would fulfill that very declaration and more.
None of it would have been possible without the corner stones with 1 and 4 on their backs. They were there every step of the way to build a culture in the locker room and UConn volleyball looks to be better off having had them here.
Kline said it best, “we stood together.”
Mike Mavredakis is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.