After a 10-match winning streak, another conference championship and a trip to Nebraska, UNH fell to the Cornhuskers in three sets in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Cats lost 25-9, 25-23 and 25-18.
Sophomore Gabri Olhava led the Wildcats, leading the team in kills with 11 and digs with 10. In their final game at UNH Demi Muses notched eight kills and 10 digs, and Keelin Severtson added 32 assists.
The Wildcats finish their season at 21-11, 10-2 in conference play and an 11-3 home record.
In a game attended by a sold out crowd of 8,000 fans, the Wildcats had to overcome the best talent they’ve faced all season in the most hostile place they would play all season.
“I am really proud of this team,” Hirschinger said. “We fought hard playing the best in the country. It will be hard to say goodbye to our three seniors and I appreciate everything they did for our program.”
The three seniors, Demi Muses, Keelin Severtson and Sara Carlson proved to the team, the conference and the country how special of a group they were.
Muses and Severtson, both four-year players, proved they have the attributes to win. The two have been a part of all four No. 1 seeded Wildcat teams in the America East conference tournament, which they never lost during their careers.
Muses was named conference co-player of the year last year and Severtson was named to conference setter of the year. This season, the two repeated those accomplishments.
Carlson, a four-year hockey player, used her fifth year of eligibility to switch to volleyball and she joined the team last spring. Carlson emerged as UNH’s starting libero and was a huge defensive key this season.
The year started out with a lot of question marks for this Wildcat team. After losing two of its first three games, UNH looked to return to normality after years of conference domination. With eight freshmen on the roster, the experience of the team was also an issue.
As the year progressed the team established the rotations, which included three of those freshmen. Emily Tanski, Kennedi Smith and Hannah Petke were the three outside hitters that made a huge impact this season.
“We had four freshmen, Tanski, Smith, Petke and [Logan] Welti, and one sophomore, Olhava, that made impressive contributions all year,” Hirschinger said.
The mix of the team’s senior leadership and experience, and athleticism of the underclassmen seemed to be a great recipe for success. The team’s chemistry came to its climax as they went on a 10-match win streak and played their best volleyball all season.
“Our entire team continued to work hard and improve throughout the season,” Hirschinger said. “It was a wonderful year and although the end of a season is never easy, we gave Nebraska and all their 8,000 fans everything we had.”
Although the team loses some of the programs best players, the young talent, dedicated coaching staff and new found tradition of volleyball at UNH will always make the ‘Cats a threat to deal with.
For more on UNH volleyball, visit the UNH athletics website at unhwildcats.com.