PANEL DISCUSSION: CD Sports Staff on Virginia women’s sports taking leap forward – The Cavalier Daily
In the middle of the spring season, there are many reasons to be optimistic about various women’s sports. With the recent commitment of top rookie Samantha Brunelle to the Virginia women’s basketball team with an all-new coach, the Cavaliers should make some progress on the court in the upcoming season. Additionally, the dominance of the Virginia women’s swimming and diving team with national and conference victories as well as Olympic successes has been remarkable. Additionally, the softball team has also shown a change of pace with a recent winning streak and improving player performance all around.
What does the arrival of Sam Brunelle mean for women’s basketball?
Aidan Baller, Associate Writer: With the women’s basketball team having not played in the NCAA tournament since 2018, the addition of junior forward Samantha Brunelle, a transfer from Notre Dame, gives hope for a program that will experienced difficulties. Also, with new coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, a new chapter has begun for the Virginia women’s basketball team. Brunelle’s transfer to Virginia will inspire others to join her and allow Hamilton to begin her tenure with a strong team capable of making a splash at next year’s NCAA Tournament.
Abby Nichols, Associate Editor: Virginia men’s basketball has had its share of major successes in recent years, while the women’s team led by former coach Tina Thompson has struggled to succeed on the court. The fans and the team are hoping to get away from this disappointing past and should be looking forward to starting the upcoming season under new coach Agugua-Hamilton. That coaching change sparked other moves in the program, including the addition of Brunelle, a strong competitor who should give the Cavaliers a head start next season. The former No. 1 High School freshman performed well at Notre Dame, but the Virginia native is ready to come compete as a Cavalier. Fans should be thrilled to sit in the stands and welcome the exceptional talent home.
Alexa Mosley, Associate Editor: At the end of the 2021-22 season, it was clear that changes had to happen to the women’s basketball team in order to avoid another underperforming season. The first change came in the form of a new coach, Agugua-Hamilton was introduced as Thompson’s successor. Less than a month later, it is announced that the program gains yet another new contributor to Brunelle. The Virginia native put on a strong performance in her freshman year, even being named to the All-ACC All-Freshman team. However, his next two seasons were heavily affected by COVID-19 and a series of injuries. Brunelle is a perfect fit for this women’s team, as they are both looking to have rebound seasons in 2022-23. His great scoring ability seems to be just what the Cavaliers need to put together a winning effort.
Is the women’s swimming and diving team becoming a dynasty?
AB: Virginia women’s swimming and diving took over college swimming after winning back-to-back national championships and built a foundation capable of becoming a dynasty. The hard part of maintaining success in college is the constant flow of new athletes into a program, but with freshman swimmers like Emma Weyant, Gretchen Walsh and Reilly Tiltman, there’s optimism that this program can continue to produce championships for years to come. The continued success of the program will inspire recruits to grow the program into a dynasty.
AN: A hat-trick is one of the team’s coveted accomplishments in sports, and Virginia’s women’s swimming and diving team is well on its way to back-to-back NCAA championship wins. Coach Todd DeSorbo has built this team almost to perfection over the past five years, but he makes sure to step back and let the competitors feed off each other and push each other to do their best. The Virginia team will continue to make a name for itself with two new top-five recruits, Carly Novelline and Claire Tuggle. Everyone should be excited to see what the team has in store for the upcoming season and be on the lookout for the creation of a true dynasty: an NCAA swimming and diving hat-trick.
AM: The women’s swimming and diving team has been nothing short of outstanding over the past two seasons. For starters, they won three straight ACC championships. If that’s not enough, they are now back-to-back NCAA champions. And more, the program recently produced four Olympians – former Jumper Paige Madden, second Alex Walsh, junior Kate Douglass and rookie Emma Weyant – who won four combined Tokyo 2021 Games medals. DeSorbo was also at Tokyo, as assistant coach of the American team. This strong base, coupled with an abundance of young swimmers and an influx of strong recruits, indicates that the program is set up for success in the years to come. All signs point to a dynasty in the making.
Softball has shown signs of progress — what is the program’s potential?
AB: The Virginia softball team finds itself in the middle of the ACC pack, but there is hope for the future. The Cavaliers showed they could compete after two huge wins over then ACC opponent No. 1. 24 Notre Dame and a narrow 7-5 loss to No. 11 Tennessee. Softball is capable of playing with the best, they just need to find consistency in their game to break into the top 25. With the addition of second-year transfer Savanah Henley and with returning players such as junior Katie Goldberg and second Abby Weaver, the team is ready for a breakthrough.
AN: The Cavaliers made history at the start of this softball season and were 8-1 in ACC play to establish a new best program. The team signed six of the top softball rookies in the nation in 2021 and they showed it with their ACC six-game winning streak at the start of the year. The team has shown batting success and has no trouble hitting homers with seven players having batting averages above the opponent’s average of .259. However, where the team has struggled recently is in throwing and, more specifically, allowing the other team home runs. During their series against Florida State, the Seminoles had 10 RBIs in three games from home runs alone. The Cavaliers lost those three games in addition to the next three ACC games against Duke. Junior pitcher Molly Grube is 0-2 and senior pitcher Aly Rayle is 4-4 after starting the season 4-1. If the pitching game can find more consistency, softball should be able to break its six-game conference losing streak and move up the ACC rankings.
AM: Consistency is the name of the game for the softball team. He swept the series against NC State, but then lost to Liberty. They swept Boston College, but then lost to Longwood and were swept by Florida State. If the Cavaliers can find consistency between series, a climb to the top of the ACC standings is certainly not out of the question. The key to winning these games will be scoring early – this season the Cavaliers are 18-1 in the lead after the first four innings. If more players join freshman catcher Sarah Coon — No. 3 in batting average — and senior outfielder Tori Gilbert — No. 1 in home runs — producing at home plate, there’s no reason the team should softball is not experiencing some kind of resurgence.