After a dominant sweep of Butler a few weeks ago, the UConn volleyball team continued their winning ways, going a perfect 6-0 against Big East foes Georgetown and Villanova on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The first set on Friday started out rocky for the Huskies, who fell to a 22-14 deficit before stringing together seven unanswered points as part of a 10-1 run. Over that stretch, Allie Garland racked up five kills to help UConn take the lead 24-23. While Georgetown battled back and earned the advantage at one point, it was Connecticut that took the first set 28-26.
The Hoyas weren’t much of a problem after that, as the Huskies led for the rest of the night aside from a 0-1 start to the third set. A solid 6-0 run early in the second game put UConn up by eight, which allowed the team to comfortably go point-for-point with Georgetown the rest of the way, winning 25-17.
At that point, it was time to finish business, with Connecticut jumping out to another early lead, this time 13-8. An impressive rally from the Hoyas got the score to within one point on three different occasions, but each time, the Huskies showed great resolve in maintaining their lead, taking home the third set by a total of 25-21.
In this one, senior Caylee Parker and junior Taylor Pannell had identical stat lines, each tallying 11 kills and nine digs, falling just shy of double-doubles. Senior Kennedy-Jake Turner led the team with five of the Huskies’ nine blocks, while graduate student McKayla Wuensch was the queen of assists, earning a team-high 35 on the night.
Less than 24 hours later, UConn was back at it again, this time hosting Villanova in a best-of-five matchup. Much like Friday’s contest against Georgetown, the Huskies were able to make quick work of the Wildcats en route to their third-straight sweep.
The first set started out as a back-and-forth affair, seeing a couple different lead changes. After 13 points had been earned, the score was 7-6 UConn. From then on, Connecticut went on an absolute tear, running away with this one thanks to runs of 6-1 immediately after and 8-2 to close it out. During the final stretch, it was Jake-Turner who led the team, blocking once and earning four kills, including the finisher.
The second game started in a similar fashion, with the Wildcats pacing themselves with the Huskies until a 5-0 run separated the two teams. Villanova fought back this time, though, coming within a point late to make the score 15-14 UConn. After that point, Nova could no longer match the pace of the Huskies, allowing a huge 10-2 run to end the game. Over that stretch, Parker, Wuensch and Jasmine Davis all earned two kills, with Davis getting the decider.
The third set was by far the most competitive, with seven lead changes between the two squads. After the Wildcats took a 6-4 lead, a big 7-0 run for the Huskies put them up by five. While it looked like this game would be another runaway, Villanova put together some great plays and capitalized on some key errors for UConn, rallying to take back the lead 16-15. The score was tied at 20 apiece until Connecticut broke out for a 25-22 win, completing yet another Big East sweep.
In Saturday’s contest, Parker and Davis were racking up the kills, with 12 and 11 apiece, respectively. Jake-Turner led the pack with team-highs in both aces (four) and blocks (three) while Wuensch added another 33 assists to her resume.
Due to her impressive weekend, Parker earned the title of Big East Offensive Player of the Week, the second time she has won the award this year. Her 23 kills were a team high, and she added a solid .385 hitting percentage. Over the weekend, she also moved up to No. 5 on the program’s all-time kills list with 1196. She was also praised for her overall contributions to the team, who reached another milestone this week.
This team has something special going. For the first time since the 1998 season, the Huskies have 11 Big East wins with four more opportunities to increase that total. Head coach Ellen Herman-Kimball has done an excellent job leading this squad since taking over the program in February 2019.
“Our mantra this season has been getting better every set, every game, every day in practice,” said Herman-Kimball. “We want to be confident while staying humble at the same time. We realize we’re going to get everybody’s best game, and we have to play our best.”
The team is currently ranked No. 60 out of 340 D1 programs by RPI, no small feat considering the lack of conference representation towards the top of those rankings. While an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament seems unlikely at this point, there is a very real chance that UConn could take home an automatic bid through the Big East Tournament, as they have already competed well against top dogs Creighton and Marquette. While falling to the Golden Eagles 1-3 both times, arguably the best win of the season for the Huskies came in an upset of Creighton.
Connecticut looks to continue their conference dominance this coming weekend, when they are slated to take on St. John’s on Friday and Seton Hall on Saturday in a mini road trip.