By Rob Wilson, Contributing Writer
Freshman outside hitter Courtney Bowman sealed the victory with an ace for the University of New Hampshire women’s volleyball team as it cruised by non-conference opponent New Jersey Institute of Technology with a three-set victory at Lundholm Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon. The victory was comprised of set scores of 25-17, 25-22 and 28-26.
UNH currently is riding a six-set win streak heading into conference play. The Wildcats improve to 8-10 overall, while NJIT falls to 4-13 on the season.
UNH Head Coach Jill Hirschinger had to call a series of timeouts over the course of the game, which came to be crucial turning points in the game for the Wildcats, who bounced back to win all three sets. During the three timeouts called for the Wildcats, the team was either tied or down.
“I got on them a little bit,” Hirschinger said. “I thought they weren’t performing like they should. The ball movement was slow. Once they started to focus again, it became a different ball game.”
The Highlanders put on their best performance of the game during the third set, facing desperation down two sets to none. Leading New Hampshire 24-23 with the set point on the line, sophomore outside hitter Maggie Kenney came through for the ‘Cats with a key block to knot the score up at 24-24. NJIT would give the set point to UNH the following serve off an attack error, putting UNH on the brink of a sweep. However, NJIT would muster up a pair of points to once again tie the score, 26-26. New Hampshire would finish off the highlanders after a key kill by junior right setter Brenna Buckwalter, setting up freshman outside hitter Courtney Bowman for the set point. Bowman would complete the sweep with an ace to end the game.
Buckwalter, a key factor on the offensive end for UNH, led the team in kills with 12. She also had 12 digs. But to Buckwalter it was a team effort, rather than an individual sticking out in the game.
“It’s all about the mindset,” Buckwalter said. “It’s always a team effort and our defense really stepped up. We just go out there trying to play each point individually. We pulled together today, and obviously it’s tough with injuries right now but we have a deep bench to get the job done.”
Second set, mirrored the first set with both teams tying scores 10 times, with only two lead changes compared to five in the first. NJIT played more aggressive in the second, putting pressure on the Wildcats late in the set, tied at 22-22. It was another timeout from New Hampshire that would spark the team to get back in its groove, taking care of three straight scores thanks to junior middle back Cassidy Croci who got a key kill to start off the run, followed by two straight kills from Buckwalter to win the set 25-22.
It was a back and forth battle for most of the first set, until UNH went on a 12-3 run after a timeout to take an early lead 1-0, 25-17. Freshmen outside hitter Courtney Bowman closed out the set with an ace. (Insert quote- about what impact the timeout had on the team and what was said?) New Hampshire junior outside hitter Abby Brinkman led the ‘Cats in kills with four in the first set, while senior teammate setter Taylor Dunklau led with 13 assists. Buckwalter and senior middle back Delaney Dameron each had three kills.
Other standouts in the game include junior outside hitter Abby Brinkman tallying nine kills while teammate Croci pitched in eight, as well as a team-high of five blocks. Senior setter Taylor Dunklau continued her recent dominance, leading the offense with 29 assists while putting up a pair of aces. Senior defensive specialist Katie Sattora led the backcourt with 13 digs.
UNH’s goal is to continue to improve its game.
“It’s always good to win,” Hirschinger said. “Our goal is to get better as a team every time we play. We have been giving some underclassmen some valuable experience. Hopefully we will have people healthy in the coming week.”
New Hampshire resumes its America East conference play on Friday, Oct. 3 as it welcome Binghamton University at Lundholm Gymnasium for a 7 p.m. tilt.