Following a 2-1 performance at the Tiger Invitational in Towson, Maryland, the UNH volleyball team (10-4) enters conference play with a significant advantage in the America East Conference. Hartford (8-7) currently stands in second place with Albany (4-9) in third place.
2018 America East Champion Stony Brook (4-10) has struggled out of the gate starting conference play in fourth place followed by UMBC (3-9) and winless Binghamton (0-12).
The conference looks a bit different as UMass Lowell cut their volleyball program after going 5-21 overall in both 2017 and 2018. UNH needs to get the better of these six programs for a shot at the NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Championship.
As for this past weekend’s festivities, UNH began their three-game slate with a five-set marathon against Loyola University Maryland (7-7), resulting in a Wildcats victory.
Senior outside hitter Kennedi Smith led the way for UNH, tallying a double-double with 15 kills and 15 assists. Also recording double-doubles were junior setter Emma Patlovich and first-year setter Wren Macaulay. Patlovich had 32 assists and 12 digs, both of which were good for season highs. Macaulay finished the match with 16 assists and 12 digs.
Four of the five sets were decided by a mere two points, with the second and third sets heading into a brief overtime. UNH won the first, second and fifth sets to seal the deal against Loyola Maryland.
UNH head coach Chris Feliciano was happy with his team’s ability to win in five sets. “Any time you win a match in five sets, no matter how you do it it’s always rewarding.”
The second match of the tournament was against a subpar NJIT team (1-15). UNH dominated against NJIT, winning the three sets 25-12, 25-15 and 25-15. Smith played well for UNH tallying a team-high 12 kills and two serving aces. First-year middle blocker Hannah Crist led UNH with four blocks. UNH dominated the net, recording nine blocks to NJIT’s two.
Despite losing to Towson (10-2) in three sets, Sunday’s match turned out to be the most intriguing of the bunch.
The ‘Cats were destroyed in the first set, losing 25-8. Towson had a hitting percentage of .636 compared to UNH’s .000. The ‘Cats struggled on the attack and paid for it by finishing on the wrong side of the fastest set of the season.
UNH clawed back in the second set but still weren’t victorious, losing 25-17. The Wildcats had 12 kills in the second set, seven more than they did in the first.
The story of the match was the third set. This was another overtime set for UNH, as they showed their resiliency in a 33-31 loss to close out the match. Feliciano was proud of his team’s effort despite the steep hill they had to climb.
“Once the team started to believe that it could be done we started playing our brand of volleyball, and that’s gritty, all-out, go after it no matter who you put in front of us volleyball. Even though we didn’t win the set, we had opportunities to push it to four, and any time you play a team that is going to be ranked top-100, it’s going to be a good day.”
On the award front, senior libero Emily Tanski took home America East Defensive Player of the Week. She recorded 51 digs last week, averaging 4.64 digs per set. Tanski also recorded a season-high 30 digs in the win over Loyola. This is her ninth career Defensive Specialist of the Week award.
The Wildcats will be in Albany, N.Y. on Friday, October 4 as they take on the Great Danes (4-9). On Sunday, October 6 the ‘Cats will travel to Baltimore, MD to face UMBC in an afternoon match.