By ANDREW YOURELL
Have you ever watched the Looney Tunes and wondered what might happen if Sylvester the cat ever caught Tweety Bird?
Fans at Friday night’s conference game between the UNH volleyball team and the University of Hartford can tell you that the results of such an incident likely wouldn’t be pretty. The Wildcats quickly felled the Hawks, winning 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-7) at home.
“It was definitely a very confident start to conference, and that’s always a little bit nerve-wracking, going into a chunk of your season,” senior Maggie Kenney said. “I feel like we’re really confident going in that we’ve got a lot of depth, that we’re just going to get it all done.”
The ‘Cats were able to show off their depth against the Hawks, who entered Friday’s bout with only four sets won on the season. UNH starters took the court for the first set, and took almost no time to set the tone.
Keelin Severtson, the defending America East Setter of the Week, hit the opening serve into the net to give Hartford a 1-0 lead. It was the team’s only lead of the night, as UNH quickly regained the serve and took command of the game.
The Hawks kept it close in the beginning stanza, trailing UNH only 8-7 after an Erinn Lavelle service ace. The problem for the Hawks was that six of their seven points were off of UNH errors. UNH settled down and ended up taking the set 25-12, with eight of Hartford’s 12 points coming from UNH service and attack errors.
In the second set, UNH raced out to leads of 10-7 and then 20-10, even with the younger players subbing in shortly after the start of the set. Hartford got two points back to make it 20-12, before the Wildcats slammed the door on the set, grabbing the last five points by forcing four attack errors on the Hawks.
Severtson opened the third set with the serve, and made up for the first set service error by notching an ace, one of four on the night for the junior. The Wildcats were the first to reach 10 points, leading 10-2 before an attack error by sophomore Courtney Bowman gave the Hawks the serve, down 10-3. UNH doubled down, jumping to a 20-6 lead, with Kenney and Bowman logging the majority of the serves in the run.
With Severtson back to serving, the ‘Cats put in some of their most inexperienced players, including Sarah Shelton, who logged her first minutes at the end of the third set, and gave the UNH team another thing to cheer for.
“Sarah Shelton got her first kill—career kill—and her first dig and her first block, which is really fun to see,” head coach Jill Hirschinger said. “You can see how the bench got excited about it because that’s kind of monumental.”
It wasn’t just the UNH bench going crazy, however. Celebrating ‘Friday Night Whites,’ the CatPack was a raucous group that Hirschinger and her players appreciated.
“It’s great,” Hirschinger said. “The CatPack is phenomenal. They’re a fun group. It’s great the way they back us and are involved in our program.” She expressed her hope that the crowds would continue to come out and support the Wildcats, who are going for their third straight America East championship this season.
On Friday night, the ‘Cats took one step closer. The team recorded 14 service aces, with Demi Muses and Severtson tying at the top of the leaderboard, with four apiece. Muses added seven kills, and Severtson had 24 assists. UNH career digs leader Madison Lightfoot added 10 digs to her record.
UNH continues the conference season on Oct. 2, when it travels to Albany, New York, for a showdown with the University at Albany at 7 p.m. On Oct. 4 the team plays the Binghamton Bearcats in Vestal, New York, before returning to Durham. The next chance for fans to cheer on the 9-7 (1-0 America East) Wildcats comes on Oct. 11, when the ‘Cats host the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks at 1 p.m.
‘Cats clip Hawks wings in 3-set rout
By ANDREW YOURELL