The graduation of Caroline Doty, Heather Buck and Kelly Faris left more than a statistical hole in the UConn program.
It left the national champions with just nine players – eight returning veterans and freshman Saniya Chong.
Under normal circumstances, that’s probably enough to handle the demands of playing games. But it left the Huskies uncomfortably short-handed in an area that doesn’t get much publicity.
For instance, it’s tough to hold a productive practice on the road when you don’t have at least 10 players.
Enter freshman guard Tierney Lawlor and sophomore guard Briana Pulido.
Now UConn has 11.
“They have gone through the preseason with us. We’re happy to have them; they are fun to be around,” senior Bria Hartley said. “They will be a fun addition to the team. And it’s nice to have more than just nine players.”
Lawlor and Pulido made the team as walk-ons. Pulido made her impression during the spring; Lawlor once she reported to campus.
“They are very quiet, which isn’t all that unusual,” senior Stef Dolson said. “Everyone is usually very quiet when you first join a team. But I give them so much credit for having the confidence in themselves to try out, the ability to make it and for just being able to get through the preseason; we all know that it’s hard as hell to do.”
Lawlor comes from Ansonia High where she averaged 12.2 points in her final two seasons, both of which she served as captain.
“It was nerve-wracking [to try out]. But it was a lot of fun. I can’t really tell you what I did, aside from working as hard as I could,” Lawlor said. “Hard work; that was it. I did what I needed to do and they must have seen something they liked.
“I’ve wanted to play for UConn ever since I was little. And the team has been so nice to me. They accepted me right away. I enjoy hanging out with them and it’s obviously fun to play with them.”
Pulido, who is from Miami, came to UConn on track and field and academic scholarships after lettering in track, cross country, volleyball and basketball, first at Archbishop Carroll and then Gulliver Preparatory.
Archbishop Carroll is the same school that sent freshman Amida Brimah to the UConn men’s basketball program.
She said she’s dreamt of being at UConn since she was in fifth grade.
“I certainly didn’t see it [the opportunity] coming,” Pulido said. “In the spring, I noticed a tweet looking for candidates. And I said to myself that I should find out about it.
“I played some pick-up, they liked what they saw and then I came back in the fall. And all worked out.”
Since UConn already as a Brianna (Banks), Bria (Hartley) and Breanna (Stewart), Pulido said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis came up with a nickname for her – Polly – which has already stuck.
“There are qualities our players look for [as it relates to walk-ons] and none of them have to do with how many points they might score or how many rebounds they may get,” Geno Auriemma said. “It’s about what kind of person are you and do you fit in? The players are the best judge and they suspected both of them would fit in very nicely.
“I know one thing for sure: Polly has taken more shots in September than she will take over the next five months combined. You can take that to the bank.”
UConn has transferred Pulido’s athletic scholarship to the basketball program, but Tierney currently is without one.