DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats knocked off the Hartford Hawks in consecutive sets (25-16, 25-22, 25-20) on Sunday to improve to 8-6 on the season and 1-0 in conference games. The Wildcats were able to wear down Hartford with an efficient offensive performance. Hartford dropped to 2-12 on the season with the loss. It was their eighth time being swept in just fourteen matches on the year.
“You never want to leave one on the table that you should’ve won,” said UNH head coach Christopher Feliciano. “We were definitely competitive, and we did our job, so picking up the win is a good morale booster. Being tied for first place after the first week is never a bad thing.”
This match was a perfect representation of Wildcat volleyball in 2021. The team improved to 4-2 at home and 8-1 against teams with an under .500 record.
“I thought we played a really clean match. We’ve been working on being clean and focused in practice along with some game situation stuff,” Feliciano explained. “I thought our team had a different mental plan for today’s match and the outcome definitely showed that.”
It was a slow start for New Hampshire in the first set. However, a dominant run to close highlighted by a left-handed kill from junior Wren Macaulay proved to be too much for the Hawks.
In the second set Hartford scored four consecutive points to cut the deficit to just two but first-year athlete Shea Purcell helped give the ‘Cats some necessary insurance heading into the third set.
UNH found themselves up a comfortable four points in set three. A wayward Hartford kill finished off a clean sweep for New Hampshire. It was the Wildcats’ third sweep in consecutive sets on the season.
UNH dominated offensively throughout the entire match, outkilling Hartford by 19 on the day. Tri-captain and senior outside hitter Kate Bilyeu led the Wildcats with a season high twelve kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Kelly Kaufmann and first-year right side hitter Marisa Armer also chipped in with nine kills.
“You have a couple things happening on a couple fronts,” explained Feliciano. “You have our leaders leading and you have our young team following, doing some courageous things, and not backing off which is nice to see. We just need more of that on a consistent basis.”
Macaulay and sophomore libero Mia Pagliarini continued their dominant campaigns once again on Sunday. Macaulay served up a remarkable 35 assists in just three sets while Pagliarini notched 18 digs defensively. It was the tenth time this season that the two led the team in assists and digs in the same match.
Pagliarini is coming off her first America East Defensive Player of the Week honor this season. After the Wildcats most recent tournament, Feliciano credited her for, “keeping [the team] in system both defensively and in serve receive.”
The Wildcats will look to keep it rolling as they take on the reigning conference champion UMBC Retrievers on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. from the Lundholm Gymnasium.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Yourell