When the UConn women’s basketball team is brought up and debated in the media, the “Core Four” players are typically the ones brought up. After all, they pile up the stats, make the flashy plays and grab the headlines.
But the senior class is truly the core of this team.
Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor might not have the individual accolades that the previous senior class had. But the importance they have to this team cannot be understated.
After three years of struggling to find her role, Saniya Chong finally came into her own during her final campaign. Chong took the reigns at the point guard position and has turned into one of the most efficient players in the country, holding the best assist-turnover ratio in the nation (4.1).
“She’s had an amazing year this year,” said Katie Lou Samuelson. “She’s done a lot of things that people didn’t expect from her and she’s been a crucial part of every single win.”
The first three years of Chong’s career weren’t what she envisioned. Despite that, Chong knows that is the past and just wants to make the most of her final season in Storrs.
“It’s my senior year,” she said. “I can’t get my past three years back so I’m really just trying to give it my all now.”
The extra effort has certainly paid off and her teammates have taken notice.
“She’s been persistent in her pursuit over the last four years. She has definitely grown,” said Kia Nurse. “Her skill is there. She’s a great basketball player and I think it’s just showing there.”
For Tierney Lawlor, her journey at UConn took a much different path. As a native of Ansonia, CT, she grew up watching the Huskies play. She arrived on campus as typical freshman, but decided to try out for Geno Auriemma’s squad when the opportunity came about.
“I wasn’t done playing sports,” she said. “I talked with my parents and thought it was a good idea, so I went out. And here I am.”
Lawlor was never going to be a rotational player. Instead, she was there to push her teammates and make the team better.
“That’s our rock,” said Crystal Dangerfield. “She does the little things for us.”
Over the years, Lawlor’s earned her reputation as a hard worker that always puts the team above herself.
“T is the most admirable one on our team,” said Samuelson. “She’s so selfless because she just wants to push us to get better every day and she just wants us to succeed,.”
Kia Nurse echoed the same sentiments about Lawlor’s work ethic, but also noted how she’s turned into a unique leader.
“She has a different kind of leadership. It’s the way she approaches things every single practice, every single day and works her butt off,” said Nurse. “She’s the first person to congratulate you if you did something good and first person to celebrate the success of someone else.”
As it does for all players that come through the program, the ride is coming towards its conclusion for the two seniors. While both players had their own unique journey, these past four years will always be special to them.
“It means a lot,” said Lawlor. “I grew up watching this team and to be able to have the opportunity to be a part of it is phenomenal.”
While Chong may not get sentimental value Lawlor does from playing for her childhood team, she understands the significance in playing for this program.
“Not many people get the opportunity to come here and experience everything,” said Chong. These fours years has been the best experience I’ve ever had.”
“I’ve had the best four years of my life and I'm just happy that I’ve come this far.”