This past week, the UConn women’s volleyball team traveled to Omaha, Neb. for the Big East Tournament. They entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and were set to face No. 4 St. John’s in the semifinals. Previously, they played St. John’s on Sept. 24 and fell to the Red Storm in four sets.
In the Big East quarterfinals, the Huskies took down St. John’s in a five-set thriller last Wednesday.
The game opened up with UConn playing red hot. Senior Caylee Parker and junior Taylor Panell got the Huskies started with two big kills, putting them at a 3-1 lead in the first set. They continued to make strong plays against the Red Storm, which allowed them to gain control. UConn took the first set from St. John’s 25-18, putting them up 1-0 in the match.
The pattern flipped in the second set for the Huskies when the Red Storm took a 10-6 lead. After a timeout, UConn held St. John’s offense which allowed them to go on a 4-0 run to cut the Red Storm’s lead to just one. Connecticut then forced a St. John’s timeout when the Huskies took the lead 18-17. St. John’s got back on their feet, stopping UConn’s offensive runs and took the set 25-22, tying the match 1-1.
Throughout the first two sets, the Huskies played tough in their blocking game. They finished with 12 blocks, compared to the Red Storm’s six. The Huskies’ blocks slowed down in the third set when the Red Storm put that to an end. Although UConn’s offense was still on track, with senior Allie Garland getting her 10th kill in the third set, it fell to St. John’s 25-22. This put the Red Storm up 2-1, their first lead of the match.
Despite losing the second and third sets, the Huskies fired back in the final two sets. They went on a 3-0 scoring run to gain a 13-9 lead in the fourth set. UConn’s offense was a group effort by a handful of their veterans. This prevailed for the Huskies to get the 25-17 win of the fourth set to send the match to a game-deciding fifth set, putting both programs’ seasons on the line.
An advantage that Connecticut had over St. John’s was that it had four players who finished the game with double-digit kills. Senior Jasmine Davis, Parker, and Garland finished with 14 kills each as well as Pannell with 10 kills and six blocks. Additionally, senior Madi Whitmire finished the game with 55 assists. With all of this offensive strength, it led the Huskies to get the 17-15 win in the fifth set, defeating St. John’s 3-2. This quarterfinal win sent Connecticut to the Big East semifinals to face No. 1 Marquette.
After losing two sets in a row against St. John’s, UConn made some in-match adjustments, which ultimately led to a win in five sets. The team had to carry this momentum and mentality going into the semifinal game where they faced a competitive opponent in Marquette. The way that the Husky offense came together with multiple players contributing was a strength that they would need to maintain in order to advance in the tournament.
Coming into this match, Marquette was ranked at No. 12 and had just recently defeated the Huskies 3-0 in their last home game of the season. The Huskies overall have not had much success against the Golden Eagles this year, as they are having a fantastic season with a 27-3 record.
Unfortunately for UConn, the Huskies continued to struggle against Marquette which led them to the end of their season after a sweep in the Big East semifinals this past Friday.
UConn started the game falling behind Marquette. The Golden Eagles got the 7-2 lead which forced a UConn timeout. Marquette’s game remained the same, which allowed the Eagles to pull away from the Huskies and get a fairly easy 25-16 win in the first set.
Through some quality plays, Connecticut started to improve its offense and defense which helped them to stay closer to Marquette than they did in the first set. During a UConn timeout, the Huskies trailed 20-17 with the Golden Eagles finished the set, taking it 25-19. This set win gave Marquette a 2-0 lead in the match which put the Huskies’ season at risk if they could not win the next set.
This scenario repeated in the third set where Marquette pulled away from UConn. The Golden Eagles played tough in the defensive zone which only helped their offense to thrive more. In the end, Marquette sealed the semifinal victory with a 25-16 in the third set, defeating Connecticut 3-0.
On a positive note, Parker and Davis gave it their all, finishing with a combined 14 kills, five digs and two blocks. Whitmire was also a contributor with 19 assists. The Huskies battled it out against Marquette in a competitive match but fell short in each set.
Although this was not the ending that the Huskies hoped for, they still have a lot to be proud of when it comes to their season accomplishments. They finished the season with a 17-14 overall record and 10-8 against Big East opponents. Furthermore, the team made back-to-back appearances in the Big East Tournament. Connecticut has six seniors that will move on from the program after this year, but the program has a lot to look forward to with the potential that next season holds.