When people think of the University of Connecticut Athletics Department, most of them think of the basketball team first. Maybe some think of the other popular sports, football or baseball or soccer, but there’s a very short list of teams that get recognition and attention from the student body without winning a championship or at least coming close.
The reality is that UConn has far more than just those few teams; the athletics department boasts a total of 19 teams from rowing to golf to football. But it is the lesser known sports that I believe you, the people who make up the incoming class of 2025, should know about. Those are the teams that don’t make headlines, that don’t necessarily get thought about even while many of them have historically found periods of success.
One underappreciated fall sport is the women’s volleyball team. The team achieved an academic award in May of 2021 by the American Volleyball Coaches Association for averaging a 3.3 GPA. They play home games at Gampel, making them easy games to attend for anyone living on campus.
The team goes into this season having gotten two new transfers in Karly Berkland, a junior who played two years at Houston, and McKayla Wuensch, a graduate student who previously played at Wichita State for two seasons. They’ll join new recruit Brooklyn Wiedenheft from Nevada who comes to UConn to study Biology and a history of competing in the Junior National Olympics in beach volleyball.
Another sport that is often underappreciated is the women’s lacrosse team. They recently announced the hiring of a new assistant coach, Kaitlin Fredrick, who previously worked at Coastal Carolina following a playing career at Ohio State. She’ll be looking to help head coach Katie Woods improve on the team’s 12-7 record from last season, a run that culminated in a loss in Round 2 of the Big East championship and the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
They’ll be playing again in spring, looking to improve and make a run in the tournaments during a year hopefully less marred by the COVID-19 outbreak. In this time of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and what the seasons will look like even with students back on campus, there is no doubt that it will be a different season than last year.
One final pair of teams which should get more attention this season are the ice hockey teams. They’re often overshadowed by the basketball or football teams they share their season with, but the women’s hockey team showed off last season with a surprise victory over Boston College in the Hockey East Championship.
That was by any definition a successful season; Boston College had lost just 6 games out of 20 in the season while UConn had had a sub-.500 win rate. Many of the players who were a part of that success, including goalies Tia Chan and Samantha Carpentier-Yelle, were instrumental in the successful run.
The men’s team didn’t have quite as successful a run, going out in a 1-6 loss in the quarterfinals, but they still showed strong performances and ended with a 10-11-2 record. This season, the last to be played on the current hockey rink given a new one will supposedly open in fall of 2022, will be an opportunity for them to build on the success of the strange 2020-2021 season.
The basketball and football teams will always be the most popular; that’s a symptom of the success of the sport, if not UConn’s teams specifically. But after over a year where people have lacked the ability to attend live sports, hopefully more than just the most popular sports will be appreciated.