For the past 20 years, UConn athletics has been defined by the success of our men’s and women’s basketball programs. The school was so dominant for so long that we have been aptly named the “Basketball Capital of the World,” and a world without at least the women’s team reaching the Final Four has not existed since 2007. But for what seems like the first time in those two decades of dominance, the Huskies’ talents expand beyond the basketball court.
Last semester my colleague Andrew wrote his column about why everyone at UConn should attempt to get to at least one field hockey game, but I’m here to implore you to get to as many sporting events as you possibly can. Along with our ever-impressive basketball teams, the Huskies boast one of the top field hockey programs in the country, two incredibly competitive and entertaining hockey teams and a baseball and softball program that are poised to build off impressive 2019s and turn some heads. These are just a few of the up-and-coming teams that complement our basketball programs, but if simply naming them isn’t enough, here are some reasons why you need to see what else is going on in UConn athletics.
Men’s and Women’s Basketball:
I decided to combine these two because they are the sport everyone knows about and even your grandma talks about. They are what makes UConn UConn, and while they have each found themselves in a bit of a respective rut compared to their normal dominance (especially the women), a new era starts next year for them both.
The men are losing Christian Vital and potentially Alterique Gilbert, the hearts and souls of this team for the past few years, but they should feel comfortable knowing they have guys more than capable of filling their shoes. Along with rising stars James Bouknight, Jalen Gaffney and Akok Akok, the Huskies have four-star recruit Andre Jackson and three-star recruit Javonte Brown-Ferguson coming in to add more depth to an already talented young core. The end of the tunnel is near for the men, as their recent hot streak this year has shown them to be one of the most exciting teams in all of college basketball. They are just a couple pieces away.
Make sure you find time to make it out to the games so you can say you were there before they got big again.
The women’s slump doesn’t look like what a normal team would define as such. In fact, 12 straight Final Fours and an undefeated conference record would be incredible for some, but that is not the UConn way. Next year the team will be without Crystal Dangerfield, Kyla Irwin, Molly Bent, Batouly Camara and Evelyn Adebayo, but with Paige Bueckers, the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming in along with transfer Evina Westbrook and another year of experience for the rest of the Huskies squad, don’t expect it to take too long before they cross that final hurdle and get back to the team that we saw in the beginning of the century.
Both of these teams are poised for success, but that’s what everyone expects, so let’s check in elsewhere.
Two words: National. Championships. UConn’s field hockey team has won three national titles in the past seven years, and in two of the four years they did not make the championship, they were competing in the third-place consolation game. The Huskies’ five titles rank them No. 4 amongst all schools, but their success is more recent and dominant than all but North Carolina. Additionally, UConn has finished atop the Big East Conference in seven of the past eight years while winning the conference tourney in all eight seasons. With a dominant program like this comes equally dominant players to watch, which is exactly the case for the Huskies.
All-American Sophie Hamilton and Big East Conference goalie of the year Cheyenne Sprecher are returning among other big names. Hamilton finished second on the team in points during her first season and will only improve with the offense revolving around her. Meanwhile on the defensive end, Sprecher led all of college field hockey in save percentage and will likely continue to build off of that heading into her junior year. Success should continue for UConn through these two as well as the whole team, but it comes especially easy when led by the winningest field hockey coach of all time Nancy Stevens.
Home games are played at the Sherman Family Complex. Go see the success for yourself.
If you asked me even just a year ago if I would give two hoots about what was going on with the men’s hockey team, the answer probably would have been a confused no. Sure I’ve always found the sport interesting, but the lack of a team or players I particularly cared about made it difficult to get into. Fast forward to spring 2020, though, and that same team is who I am most excited to sit down and watch.
Competing in the same conference as top schools like Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and UMass, people don’t often give the Huskies a second glance. But here we are, now just one game away from the conference tournament, and UConn sits at No. 4 and is on the verge of hosting for the first time since joining the conference in 2014. At UConn, programs like women’s basketball and field hockey pride themselves on consistency, but what makes the hockey team so exciting is their unpredictability.
They got off to a rough start this season, sitting at 2-5-1, but they have now won eight of their last 10, including big wins against No. 9 UMass and No. 15 Maine. This will also be the Huskies’ first season with a record of at least .500 since joining Hockey East. This team has proven they can compete with the best, is doing some particularly amazing things as of late and deserves a fanbase that shows that.
A team that has proven they can handle the spotlight is women’s hockey. The Huskies totaled their most wins (18) since their 2015-16 season and have now made it to the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament after upsetting No. 4 Boston College. The team is led by upperclassmen Natalie Snodgrass and Catherine Crawley who rank No. 7 and No.11 in the conference in points respectively, but it is the fluidity and skill that the team plays with that makes them as good as they are.
his team looks like it improves every time they touch the ice and will definitely be the one to keep an eye on not only through the rest of this season but for the next several years. And if that alone isn’t enough for you, UConn is in the works of building a new and improved arena for the team to compete in to replace their current situation of Mark Freitas.
Coming off back-to-back exits in the Regional Final of the NCAA tournament, UConn’s baseball team entered the 2020 season hungry. After being relatively slept-on for the past several seasons, the Huskies burst onto the scene by winning three out of four games against No. 1 Michigan. That’s right. Three out of four. Against No. 1 Michigan. If that isn’t enough to get you excited as a sports fan, I don’t know what is. When hot, they are one of the best teams in the sport, and with a pretty young core leading the way, they will only get better in the coming seasons.
Also, have you seen Elliot Ballpark? UConn’s brand-new baseball field might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and is a major upgrade from the field they were using previously. It is just one feature of the new Rizzo Family Complex that should make the entire experience of the game even better and really bring in the fans to give this team the support they deserve.
Last but absolutely not least on this list is the softball team. They don’t have a jaw-dropping field to play on nor do they have any star player that will blow you out of the water, but they are just flat out good. The Huskies are off to an 11-4 start including a six-game win streak in which they outscored opponents 42-9. Their 11 wins thus far are already halfway to their most wins since 2013, and with 37 games left, they are almost sure to reach that benchmark. This is in large part due to their offense looking unstoppable at times, but what really carries the team has been their defense and pitching.
UConn’s fielding percentage and team ERA rank in the top two of the American Athletic Conference with pitchers Megan O’Neil and Marybeth Olson both placing in the top five in individual ERA and Devon Casazza leading the conference in fielding percentage.
Like I said, they are not going to wow you with a particular play, but if you are looking for good sound softball, they are sure to provide. Their games are on campus with the series spanning three to four games over a three-day span, so everyone can and should make it to at least one.
UConn athletics has officially moved past its “Basketball Capital of the World” era into a brand new and exciting one where each sport is achieving its highest potential. I don’t know about the rest of the UConn community, but nothing gets my blood pumping like a good sporting event, so please take advantage while UConn athletics is nearing its peak, and even more importantly, while you still get into the games for free.