Geno Auriemma and the Huskies will begin their back-to-back national title defense Sunday at 10 p.m. ET when they face UC Davis. Three days later, they'll face Stanford before returning to Storrs for the home opener on Nov. 23.
And while Auriemma, now in his 30th season, knows the routine, everything is completely new for the four freshmen: Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams.
"Other than Kia Nurse, they are very quiet, very introverted on the court," Auriemma said, via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "They all have their moments when they are pretty good, but they also are getting adjusted to the realities of what it's like to practice against who they have to practice against. It's already hard to go to college and play. Then you throw in having to practice against our [veteran] players … it's been a real eye-opener for them, for sure."
One of the benefits to playing for Auriemma is that freshmen aren't rushed onto the court. There's too much depth and too much to learn. But watching and learning usually pays dividends down the road; even Breanna Stewart, college basketball's best player, had to find her way as a freshman.
"I try to remind them that Breanna Stewart was a lot better than any one of them coming out of high school and even she had a nightmare in January and February of her freshman year," Auriemma said. "No one is immune. But the cool thing is that they are no less competitive."
And sometimes, the biggest adjustments can be off the court.
"It's all what I expected," Ekmark, who is from Arizona, said. "Being a freshman, living in a city that's 2,000 miles from home can be a little scary. But I am adjusting well, focusing on helping the team win. And the basketball is exactly what you would expect when you move up a level from high school. It's more intense, physical and faster. It's what I expected, it's what it is."