The Wildcats welcomed the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Stony Brook University to Lundholm Gymnasium this weekend for the first America East conference games of the season. Communication and energy were among the Wildcats’ advantages while facing each team, something they lacked earlier in the season. The ‘Cats swept each match 3-0.
On Friday, led by veteran middle blocker Demi Muses, the ‘Cats chipped away at the UMBC defense to take an early lead in each set. Aside from the Retrievers’ short two-point stint at the beginning of the first set, they never held the lead over UNH.
Roughly halfway through the first set, it became very clear who the dominant force was. Muses, already well known for her strong presence on the court, worked with setter Keelin Severtson to run slide hits against the Retrievers blockers. Muses tallied 15 kills, 13 digs and four blocks, followed by freshman Emily Tanski who put up 11 kills, 12 digs and two blocks.
Muses was especially dangerous with the slide sets. The quick tempo was too much for the opposing blocker to keep up with, which only opened up more options for the deadly hitter.
“That’s my favorite hit. I like a quick set, and my setter makes it easy for me to put on the court,” Muses said.
She certainly had no trouble finding court to bury the ball in, and neither did her teammates. UNH collectively put up 41 kills while only sacrificing 12 hitting errors, combining for a .276 team hitting average. The final scores of the sets were 25-19, 25-18 and 25-14.
The good results didn’t stop after Friday night’s performance. The ‘Cats returned to Lundholm on Sunday to face the Stony Brook Seawolves. UNH quickly established themselves as the stronger team both offensively and defensively; effective ball placement and diligent defense were crucial.
The Wildcats broke open the first set after taking an aggressive 18-12 lead, and worked even more efficiently in the following sets.
Stony Brook’s tendency to dump the ball and push it into corners made the Wildcats’ 33 digs impressive. Good passing allowed for Severtson to do whatever she wanted with the ball, which she often sent to the pin-hitters.
The Seawolves picked up their defensive game in the third set, which proved difficult to overcome. Ultimately their strengthened defense forced the ‘Cats to be crafty with their offense—which meant more tipping and careful ball placement. Because of the better blocking, Muses wasn’t as effective from the middle position. Severtson relied more on her outside hitters Kennedi Smith and Gabri Olhava, who accounted for 11 and nine kills respectively.
When asked about the upcoming stretch of away games, head coach Jill Hirschinger was optimistic.
“We’ve still got to take them one at a time, because they’re all conference games. At least we’re familiar with those gyms, we’ve played there before, and we know where we’re going,” Hirschinger said.
She added that while it’s always nice to be at home, she feels confident in her team’s ability to keep the energy high and play well on the month-long road trip.
The next home game for the Wildcats is on Nov. 4 against UMass Lowell.