After a jam-packed first week of September, the UNH volleyball team (6-2) has established themselves as an early America East contender 

The ‘Cats hosted the annual Holly Young Invitational this past weekend, as Seattle University (5-2), Holy Cross (1-6) and Brown University (3-1) traveled to Durham to participate in the festivities.  

UNH kicked off the invitational against Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 5., to whom they fell 3-1. Seattle took a close first set 25-20 and UNH won the second set 25-18. The latter two sets favored Seattle thanks to a dominant performance by Seattle’s junior outside hitter Rachel Stark.  

Stark was able to expose UNH’s outside blocking, or lack thereof. She tallied 17 kills with only eight errors, which was good for a hitting percentage of .188.  

Seattle head coach James Finley commented on his team’s dominant pin-hitting. “We talked a lot about the line being open and making the opposing middles late, so that was creating the seams giving our hitters two different places to go… our setter made the adjustment, not us, to move the hitter inside to avoid the block.” That adjustment opened up the game for Seattle. 

Seattle’s outside hitters combined for 34 of the teams 53 kills on Thursday. They proceeded to win the third set 25-17 and the fourth set 25-20. 

The second game on the docket was UNH vs. Holy Cross. The Wildcats cruised past an underwhelming Holy Cross squad, sweeping the Crusaders 3-0. The scores of the sets were 25-21, 25-17, and 25-21. 

UNH head coach Chris Feliciano was happy to see his team rebound after the loss against Seattle. “It shows their resiliency and will after a tough loss last night.”  

Senior right-side hitter Hannah Petke led the Wildcats with 13 kills on 18 attempts. She only had one error, giving her a stellar hitting percentage of .667.  

Senior libero Emily Tanski led the way defensively recording a game-high 18 digs.  

In the third game against Brown, a new face emerged as an offensive leader for UNH. First-year outside hitter Katie Jablonski led the Wildcats in kills as they beat brown 3-1.  

Jablonski had a game-high 15 kills on 27 attacks. She also had three blocks and made only three hitting errors. First-year middle blocker Hannah Crist had her strongest performance of the season, tallying eight kills and zero errors for a hitting percentage of .800. She also had seven blocks, which was good for second on the team behind sophomore middle blocker Abby Sullivan who had eight blocks. 

Brown started off well, bursting out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. UNH clawed their way back on the shoulders of Jablonski, bringing the set within one point at 23-22 Brown. The Bears sealed the deal to win the set 25-22 following a UNH run.  

The second set began with the teams trading points up until 10-10. UNH first-year setter Wren Macaulay entered to serve and pushed the UNH lead to 12-10 with some impressive jump-serves.  

Later in the set, Smith led the ‘Cats on a 10-point run during her serve. Smith commented after the game on her serving success. “It’s all about slowing down the pace and focusing on my serve. The ref blows the whistle and some people serve as fast as they can, but I take my time, I have my routine and I focus on where I’m going to place the ball.” 

UNH won the second set 25-14, setting the tone for the remainder of the match.  

Smith’s tactics continued to help the ‘Cats, as she had another 10-point serving run during the third set.  

Jablonski contributed another four kills in the third set, as UNH won it 25-15.  

The fourth set was back-and-forth early, but junior setter Emma Patlovich headed a six-point run on her serve giving UNH a 11-5 lead. UNH proceeded to win the set and the match 25-20.  

On Tuesday Sept. 10, UNH went to Boston, MA where they defeated Northeastern 3-2. Jablonski carried the momentum from her last game into Tuesday with a career-high 17 kills. Petke stayed hot too, contributing 15 kills.  

UNH travels to Hamilton, NY on Friday Sept., 13 for the Ellis Rowland tournament, where they will face Rutgers, Quinnipiac and the hosting Colgate.