The women’s volleyball team has returned home after participating in the Cherry & White Challenge in Philadelphia, Pa. where the Wildcats again struggled to gain any momentum on the season.
The Wildcats (4-10) reached double digits in the loss column after dropping all three games against the University of Maryland (9-3), Princeton University (7-4), and the hosting Temple University (3-9).
This season did not get off to an ideal start for the Wildcats, and their current four game losing streak certainly is not helping their cause.
Maryland posed as the first opponent for the ‘Cats in the Cherry & White Challenge. UNH began the set with two kills by junior outside hitter Kennedi Smith, although the Terrapins bounced back quickly to tie the set at 8-8. The Wildcats stole three consecutive points to break out of the tie with an 11-8 lead, only for Maryland to bite back with a five-point run pushing the Terrapin lead to 17-14. Maryland never looked back as they took the first set 25-17.
Not much differed in the second set. UNH stayed competitive for the majority of the set as they got out to a 12-4 start with three key kills from senior middle blocker Gabri Olhava. Maryland called a timeout, which proved to be vastly effective as the Terrapins embarked on a 7-1 run that brought them within two points of the Wildcat lead. The teams traded points until Maryland won four straight points late in the set, eventually leading to their 25-20 win over UNH in the second set.
Energy from first-year players again proved beneficial for the Wildcats, as first-year middle blocker Abby Sullivan, first-year middle blocker Maddie Wiedenfeld and junior outside hitter Smith each hit consecutive kills after dropping the first two points of the set. The ‘Cats kept the score even until junior defensive specialist Jenny Weston got a service ace, igniting a 6-1 run that put the Wildcats ahead 13-8. That success did not last long, as Maryland was able to close out with two major runs finishing the set 25-21 which was good for a sweep of the Wildcats.
The ‘Cats looked better against Princeton. In the first set the two teams traded points until Princeton jumped out to a 16-12 lead after a 6-1 run. Trailing by four, the Wildcats trimmed the deficit to one point and the teams traded points until senior outside hitter Sarah Shelton and Wiedenfeld scored on back-to-back kills along with a Princeton attack error to hand the ‘Cats a 23-22 lead. After a timeout Shelton ripped another kill and Princeton made another attack error to give the Wildcats the first set, 25-23.
The Wildcats could not carry their momentum into the second set. The set began neck and neck, then Princeton hit a 6-1 run and which they would not give up for the remainder of the set. The Tigers took the second set 25-17.
Princeton had all the momentum in the world beginning the third set, winning the first eight points. The Wildcats fought back to an extent, as they were able to pull within five points to no avail. Princeton took set three by a score of 25-20.
The fourth and final set held similar characteristics to the third. Princeton had an early lead that quickly accumulated to 22-13. The ‘Cats made a small run to cut the Princeton lead to 24-17, but the comeback effort was short lived giving Princeton the set and the match.
In UNH’s final match of the Cherry & White Challenge they battled the tournament hosting Temple Owls.
Again, the Wildcats stole the first set with a strong start. Wiedenfeld and Junior Logan Welti contributed a couple of kills to help the Wildcats gain an 11-7 lead, which they would extend to a six-point lead only for the Owls to surge back and tie the set at 22. Senior setter Mali Jereczek checked into the game and the Wildcats immediately scored with an Olhava block and a kill by junior Hannah Stewart. That sealed the deal for the first set. Wildcats 25, Owls 23.
Similar to the Princeton game, the Wildcats could not capitalize on their win in the first set. They dropped the next three sets to lose the match with Temple.
The Wildcats finished the Cherry and White tournament 0-3.
The story of this match was UNH’s offensive struggles. The Wildcats hitting percentage was a dreadful .028. For context, the Wildcats hitting percentage on the season is .172.
On the individual front, Kennedi Smith recorded a double-double in all three games, giving her a four-game double-double streak. She finished the tournament with 38 kills and 40 digs.
Junior libero Emily Tanski was named to the all-tournament team. Tanski recorded 59 digs, averaging 5.36 per set.
There is still hope for the Wildcats to make the NCAA tournament. If they win the America East they will get a spot in the tournament despite their slow start. They begin conference play at home on Friday Sept. 21 at 7:00 p.m. against UMass Lowell (1-12), who is currently at the bottom of the America East Conference.