Following an underwhelming 2018 season, the UNH volleyball team has shifted into a new gear for 2019. Last season, the Wildcats finished 12-15 overall and 8-4 within the America East conference.
The volleyball program brings in a new coaching regime in 2019 consisting of head coach Christopher Feliciano and assistant coach Ashley Tennant. Feliciano formerly coached at Rider University in New Jersey. TNH published a feature on Feliciano that is available online and in print. As for Tennant, she is a former assistant coach for the University of California Santa Cruz and most recently the University of Mount Olive. Tennant, a former libero at the University of Rhode Island, has been coaching for 11 years and looks to help the ‘Cats succeed.
This year’s senior class consists of right-side hitter Hannah Petke, defensive specialist Jenny Weston, outside hitter Kennedi Smith, defensive specialist Emily Tanski and outside hitter Logan Welti. This is a proven group whose leadership will be crucial to the team’s success.
Coach Feliciano spoke about his expectations for the senior class. “In March I talked to them about what their legacy is. The five of them have been on an America East Conference championship team, but we don’t want to talk about a championship. I’m not saying we aren’t capable, but we are focused on taking things day-by-day.”
The day-by-day, play-by-play, moment-by-moment theory is a mantra for Feliciano and the players as they continue to improve. Feliciano continued, “We are focused on embracing everything that is given to us and every challenge that is presented to us.”
The five seniors are joined by two returning players: junior setter Emma Patlovich and sophomore middle blocker Abby Sullivan.
There are seven new members of the UNH volleyball team in 2019. The first-year players include middle blocker Hanna Crist from Cicero, Indiana, setter Holly Bentley from Chelmsford, England, outside hitter Katie Jablonski from Elburn, Illinois, setter Wren Macaulay from Lake Orion, Michigan, middle blocker Bre Smith from Boonville Missouri, and right-side hitter Erin Hedrick from Montvale, New Jersey. Sophomore outside hitter Kate Bilyeu hails from Omaha, Nebraska and transferred to UNH after playing at UMass Lowell her first year.
The influx of new talent has created a new dynamic at practice: position battles. Each practice, teammates compete with each other as they try to earn playing time and respect from their peers. This trend has spurred a healthy sense of urgency for the ‘Cats. “It’s really rewarding to see these battles especially combining the new players with the returners,” said Feliciano. “It’s a really positive thing to see our experienced players going after it, but our freshman players are not backing down.”
UNH fans have a lot to look forward to as the team will bring a new, fresh energy to the Lundholm Gymnasium.