The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

ROUNDTABLE: CD Sports Staff on Virginia women’s sports making a leap forward

The CD Sports Staff reflects on the addition of star player Sam Brunelle to women’s basketball along with the recent successes of women’s swim and dive and softball

<p>Along with a National Championship for the Virginia women's swimming and diving team, softball has shown signs of progress.</p>

Along with a National Championship for the Virginia women's swimming and diving team, softball has shown signs of progress.

In the midst of the spring season, there are plenty of reasons for optimism about various women’s sports. With the recent commitment of top recruit Samantha Brunelle to the Virginia women’s basketball team along with a brand new Coach, the Cavaliers are expected to make strides on the court in the coming season. Additionally, the dominance of the Virginia women’s swim and dive team with national and conference wins along with Olympic success has been noteworthy. Moreover, the softball team has also shown a turn-of-pace with a recent string of wins and improved player performance all around. 

What does the addition of Sam Brunelle mean for women’s basketball?

Aidan Baller, Associate Writer: With the women’s basketball team having not made the NCAA tournament since 2018, the addition of Samantha Brunelle, Notre Dame transfer junior forward, provides hope for a program that has struggled. Additionally, 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 will allow for Hamilton to begin her tenure with a solid squad capable of making a splash in next year’s NCAA tournament. 

Abby Nichols, Associate Writer: Virginia men’s basketball has had its share of major successes over the past few years while the women’s team under former Coach Tina Thompson has struggled to succeed on the court. The fans and team alike are hoping to move away from this disappointing past and should be eager to start the upcoming season with new Coach Agugua-Hamilton. This coaching change sparked other movement in the program including the addition of Brunelle, a strong competitor who is expected to give the Cavaliers a leg up next season. The former No. 1 high school recruit performed well at Notre Dame, but the Virginia native is ready to come compete as a Cavalier. Fans should get excited to grab a seat in the stands and welcome the exceptional talent home.

Alexa Mosley, Associate Writer: At the end of the 2021-22 season, it was clear that changes needed to happen within 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 the successor to Thompson. Less than a month later, it’s announced that the program is gaining yet another new contributor in Brunelle. The Virginia native put on a strong performance in her freshman year, even being named to the All-ACC All-Freshman team. However, her next two seasons were greatly impacted by COVID-19 and a string of injuries. Brunelle is a perfect fit for this women’s team, as they are both looking to have rebound seasons in 2022-23. Her great scoring capability seems to be just what the Cavaliers need to put together a winning effort.

Is the women’s swimming and diving team poised to become a dynasty?

AB: Virginia women’s swimming and diving has taken over college swimming after winning back-to-back National Championships and has built a foundation capable of becoming a dynasty. The difficult part of maintaining success in college is the constant flow of new athletes into a program, but with freshman swimmers such as Emma Weyant, Gretchen Walsh and Reilly Tiltman, there is optimism this program can continue to produce championships for years to come. Continued success of the program will inspire recruits to bolster the program into a true dynasty. 

AN: A three-peat is one of the coveted team accomplishments in sports and the Virginia women’s swimming and diving team is well on their way with back to back NCAA championship wins. Coach Todd DeSorbo has built this team to near perfection over the past five years, but he makes sure to take a step back and let the competitors feed off of each other and push themselves to be their best. The Virginia team will continue to make a name for themselves with two incoming 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 three-peat.

AM: The women’s swimming and diving team has been nothing short of exceptional the past two seasons. For starters, they have won three consecutive ACC Championships. If that’s not enough, they are now back-to-back NCAA Champions. And even more, the program recently produced four Olympians — former Cavalier Paige Madden, sophomore Alex Walsh, junior Kate Douglass and freshman Emma Weyant — who brought home a combined four medals from the 2021 Tokyo Games. DeSorbo was also in Tokyo, serving as an assistant coach for Team USA. This strong foundation, coupled with an abundance of young swimmers and an influx of strong incoming recruits, indicates the program is built to be successful for years to come. All signs point towards a dynasty in the making.

Softball has shown signs of progress — what is the program’s potential?

AB: The Virginia softball team finds themselves in the middle of the pack in the ACC, but there is hope for the future. The Cavaliers have shown that they can compete after two huge wins against ACC opponent then-No. 24 Notre Dame and a close 7-5 loss to No. 11 Tennessee. Softball is capable of playing with the best, they just need to find consistency in their play in order to break into the top-25. With the addition of sophomore transfer Savanah Henley and with returning players such as junior Katie Goldberg and sophomore Abby Weaver, the team is poised for a breakthrough. 

AN: The Cavaliers made history in the beginning of this softball season and had an 8-1 record in ACC play to set a new program best. The team signed six of the nation’s best softball recruits in 2021 and they showed it with their six-game ACC win streak in the beginning of the year. The team has shown batting success and does not struggle to hit homers with seven players having batting averages above the opponent average of 0.259. However, where the team has struggled recently is in pitching and, specifically, allowing home-runs to the other team. During their series against Florida State, the Seminoles had 10 RBIs in three games just from home runs. The Cavaliers lost all three of these games in addition to the next three ACC games against Duke. Junior pitcher Molly Grube has a 0-2 record, and senior pitcher Aly Rayle has a 4-4 record after starting the season 4-1. If the pitching game can find more consistency, softball should be able to break their six-game conference losing streak and move up in the ACC standings.

AM: Consistency is the name of the game for the softball team. It swept the series against NC State, but then lost to Liberty. They swept Boston College, but then lost to Longwood and got 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 have gone 18-1 when leading 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 the plate, there’s no reason the softball team shouldn’t experience a resurgence of sorts. 


Latest Podcast

In this week's episode, we take a deep dive into the history and future of OK Energy as well as how its founder juggles his beverage-creation endeavors with being a full-time University student. Tune in to hear how Evan Nied made his entrepreneurial dream a reality.