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  November 17, 2003

Exciting Time For Husky Athletic Teams

It's a pretty heady time in the Division of Athletics these days. The fledgling Division I-A UConn football team is being mentioned as a post-season bowl candidate by several major sports services. The women's field hockey team opened play in the NCAA Tournament Saturday, and so did the women's soccer team. The men's soccer team, which defeated several top 10 teams this year, also hopes to continue playing well into the fall.

And then there are the darlings of Connecticut, the men's and women's basketball teams. During the past few weeks, virtually every pre-season poll, from the Associated Press to Sports Illustrated to ESPN/USA Today, has rated both squads the No. 1 team in the nation. Of the major polling services, only Sporting News has the Huskies rated below No. 1, and they've slated the men's team as the No. 2 squad - behind the rival Blue Devils of Duke University.

Jim Calhoun, head coach of men's basketball, said "The No. 1 ranking matters because it highlights your program, and players get recognized. I don't regard it as being pressurized. It's how you handle it. We all aspire to be No. 1 at the end."

Women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said, "Being No. 1 is nice and it makes for interesting reading, but it really is not anything that we are strangers to. I'm sure we'll handle it the right way."

Emeka Okafor and Diana Taurasi, both consensus first team All America picks and among the favorites for players of the year, have graced the covers of more magazines and newspapers than basketball icon Shaq O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"You want to talk about a daily double," wrote Dick Vitale in the special college hoops edition of USA Today. "This could be the first time the men's and women's national player of the year honors go to players from the same school.

"Yes, it's going to be a special time in Storrs," he added, "as it has the chance to be the capital of the basketball world."

Jeff Hathaway, director of athletics, said "We're very proud of all our student-athletes and coaches here at UConn. They have produced wonderful results both on and off the field.

Added Hathaway, "It's a very exciting time to be a Husky."