Hello all, and welcome back to Husky History, a column focusing on one accomplished UConn athlete per week. Each article details the athlete’s accolades at Connecticut, as well as their ability to take their games to the professional level. This week’s Husky History focuses on women’s soccer legend Kerry Connors.
Connors, a Somers, CT native, started out as a talented, multi-sport athlete. In high school, she played both soccer and basketball, quickly grabbing the attention of legendary UConn women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris. After earning all-state honors and taking her team to the 1992 Class S semifinals, it was time for the midfielder to take her talents to Storrs.
“I always wanted to come to UConn. I grew up watching them play, knew they had a great program and a great school,” recalled Connors on her decision.
Her freshman year, Connors was a staple on the roster, helping the Huskies to a 17-6-1 overall record. Thanks to her play, the midfielder was named to the NEWISA All-New England team.
Her sophomore year was an interesting one, as the second-year battled a knee injury the entirety of the season. That 1994 team had a stacked roster, making the College Cup semifinals before falling to North Carolina 3-0. After toughing it out for her team, Connors had necessary surgery and implemented some big changes to her game.
“The knee injury really changed my attitude,” said Connors in 1995. “I think the surgery and the rehab made me mentally tougher. Soccer is one of the most significant things for me. Right now, I think I’m in the best shape of my life because I have worked that much harder.”
All of that hard work certainly paid off, as Connors made a big leap in her junior year notching 17 assists. While goal scorers sometimes get all of the glory, Connors enjoyed the art of orchestrating the offense.
“I just play,” said Connors. “But I do think some players see things better than others. I started playing when I was very young, and I’ve always been a good distributor, but I can’t really say why. I think playing with great players certainly helps.”
UConn would fall to Notre Dame in both the Big East Championship and the NCAA Quarterfinals, but the Somers native took home Big East Offensive Player of the Year and All-American honors. Paired with freshman phenom and conference Defensive Player of the Year Sara Whalen, the team was a sight to behold.
“[Connors is] a big-time player,” said Tsantiris in 1996. “She came on last year, but this year she’s even better. She makes things happen for us.”
She certainly made things happen in 1996, her senior year. Connors upped her single-season assist record from 17 to 18, notching 20 goals as well. The Huskies went 22-3, falling to Notre Dame in the Big East Final and in the NCAA Quarterfinals to Santa Clara. Connors played the role of the hero in the first round of NCAAs, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Dartmouth. Award season was kind to her yet again, as Connors took home All-American and Big East Offensive Player of the Year nods once more, capping off an illustrious college career. As it stands, the midfielder is one of 11 members of UConn women’s soccer’s coveted 100 point club. She sits at No. 5 all-time in program points and fourth all-time in assists with 128 and 42, respectively.
After her senior season, the two-time Big East All-Academic teamer wasn’t quite finished with her sociology degree. Connors stayed with the team in the fall as a volunteer assistant coach, helping her team win the coveted College Cup from the sidelines. Her play throughout her college career also attracted the attention of U.S. National Team head coach Tony DiCicco, who called her up in 1997 to play for her country.
“I like Kerry Connors as a player and a person,” DiCicco said at the time. “She’s got the character that’s consistent with this team and the successful players that have been here for a while.”
Connors competed in four games for the U.S. National Team, starting in two of them. With her help, the United States finished 16-2-0 in international play that year. On that squad, Connors played alongside greats like Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry and UConn teammate Sara Whalen.
In 2000, Connors was selected by the New York Power of the Women’s United Soccer Association in their inaugural player draft. She made 19 appearances for the Power, scoring a goal and notching two assists. Over the next few years, she played for the Philadelphia Charge and San Diego Spirit of the WUSA, as well as the New England Mutiny and Boston Aztec of the WPSL. For her efforts, she was nominated to the WPSL All-Star team in 2005.
Today, the UConn legend works as an assistant director of procurement at Springfield College, not far from the pitch she called home.