This past Friday, the Wildcats (5-10) emerged as victors over UMass Lowell (1-13) in their first conference match of the season. The Wildcats won in dominating fashion, sweeping the River Hawks in the match.

This was a much-needed victory, as the Wildcats had not gotten off to an ideal start this season. Friday’s win put the team in position to be competitive in the conference this year, keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive and well.

The Wildcats steered away from their tendencies this season. In an overwhelming majority of their losses, the Wildcats jump out to an early lead then cannot keep the momentum for the rest of the game. Friday was different.

After winning the opening point of the match, the River Hawks went on a five-point run giving them an early 8-2 lead. Coach Jill Hirschinger called a timeout and addressed her players.

“I just said we got to be patient and we need to get it together right now. They haven’t done anything. We’ve hit every ball out of the court. Let’s play volleyball.”

Coming out of the timeout, junior libero Emily Tanski stepped up to serve and immediately got an ace. This began a seven-point run by the Wildcats, which was largely in thanks to Tanski’s tough serving getting UMass Lowell out of system.

Senior outside hitter Sarah Shelton and first-year hitter Maddie Wiedenfeld continued the run with kills to put the Wildcats up 13-9.

UMass Lowell brought the deficit to two points, only for UNH to embark on a nine-point run to establish a firm lead in the set. After the nine-point run, UMass Lowell head coach Resa Provanzano called a timeout to ice the Wildcat offense. The timeout worked to no avail, as senior middle blocker Alexa Markman recorded a solo block to kill the River Hawks chances of winning the set 25-14.

Not much differed in the second set. The Wildcats started off with a 2-0 lead and never let the opponents within more than one point for the rest of the set.

Again, Shelton and Wiedenfeld powered the Wildcat offense to victory as they each recorded multiple kills. Shelton had five on the day and Wiedenfeld led the Wildcats with eleven kills.

The Wildcats were able to finish off the set with a double block from Wiedenfeld and first-year middle blocker Abby Sullivan. Set two went to the Wildcats, 25-17.

The third set was more of the same, with the Wildcats holding the lead for the entirety of the set aside from one early tie at 2-2.

First-year outside hitter Emma Tupa recorded back-to-back kills, which were followed by another double block by Wiedenfeld and Sullivan. This started a five-point run that the Wildcats would not give up for the remainder of the set.

The Wildcats pulled away, winning the set 25-11 and competing the sweep of UMass Lowell.

When asked about their first win in conference play, coach Hirschinger added “Every conference match is important, every set is important, every point is important. When it gets down to the end of the year, if there are any ties we’ve had teams eliminated off points… or sets won and lost.”

The Wildcats are now 1-0 in conference play and are eager to ride this momentum throughout the season.

Their next game is at home, taking on the University of Hartford (7-6, 0-1). The game will be Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:00 p.m.