By Rob Wilson, Contributing Writer
The University of New Hampshire women’s volleyball team lost a non-conference match Wednesday night at Lundholm Gymnasium against Harvard University 3-1. The loss came by set scores 14-25, 25-22, 20-25 and 16-25. The Crimson took the last two sets to seal a tally in the win column, improving to 7-2 overall, while UNH falls to 6-10 on the season.
Before the match it appeared key contributor junior co-captain Tori Forrest of UNH went down with an elbow injury. She was an immediate scratch from the lineup, causing UNH volleyball head coach Jill Hirschinger to quickly re-arrange the team’s lineup and game plan.
Further details of Forrest’s status for the future of the season will be announced in the coming days. It was an emotional distraction for the team players during warm ups, but according to senior co-captain Katie Sattora it had no effect on the outcome of the game.
“Obviously everyone was a little surprised but we all just came together to stay focused,” Sattora said. “Tori is a huge part of the team, but we knew we can do this without her. It was a moment for us to come together and move forward.”
Harvard pulled momentum in the fourth set by jumping to an 8-1 lead thanks to the help of Grace Weghorst and Caroline Walters who combined for five kills in that span. However, the Wildcats made a push off a 6-2 run midway through the set to cut the Crimson lead 18-13. Harvard then followed with a 7-3 run to win the match, taking away any existing momentum from UNH. Sophomore setter Corinne Bain of Harvard led the Crimson with 13 kills and 26 assists.
Some positives over the course of the match for UNH came from the likes of junior Abby Brinkman, senior Taylor Dunklau and sophomore Maggie Kenney.
“I thought Brinkman stepped up today, Taylor did a great job setting and Kenney blocking and attacking,” Hirschinger said. “We played a great defense in Harvard. They played great defense. I thought we fought the whole way until the third set.”
New Hampshire and Harvard exchanged the lead eight times, including 15 tie scores in the third frame. Just like the majority of the matchup, it was a chess match with both teams going back and forth, exchanging blows on their own respective runs. With momentum on their side the Wildcats would lead 20-18 during the third set. However Harvard came back after a timeout with a surge of seven straight points to take the 2-1 match lead.
The two sides were knotted up at eight early in the second frame. A trade-off of short runs following the tie left New Hampshire on top 14-12 thanks to two-straight attacking errors by the Crimson. Yet, Harvard quickly refocused and jumped on a 5-1 run to lead 17-15. The Wildcats returned with a 5-1 run of its own forcing Harvard to take a timeout. In turn, Kenney clinched the set victory with two-straight blocks after a Crimson timeout to tie the match score 1-1.
It seemed New Hampshire would take the first set against Harvard when the Wildcats extended its lead to four, 12-8. Fighting back, Harvard went on a 6-1 run to take a 14-13 lead. Looking gassed out, New Hampshire answered the Crimson surge with a timeout in attempt to slow their opponent down. The tactic would trigger an opposite reaction from Harvard, as it took 11 of the next 12 points to grab an early 1-0 game score lead in the match. Baine led Harvard with four kills in the set.
Brinkman, junior Brenna Buckwalter and junior Cassidy Croci all tallied nine kills in the match. Senior Taylor Dunklau led the ‘Cats in assists with 39, and junior Madison Lightfoot in digs with 18.
UNH begins its America East title defense this Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium. The Wildcats will host the University of Massachusetts Lowell.