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'Cats to play for third straight conference title

The Wildcats have punched their ticket to the America East Championships for the third consecutive year after defeating fourth-seeded Binghamton 3-1 (25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22).
Four players eclipsed the 10-kill mark for the Wildcats in the win. The top-seeded Wildcats needed every one to fend off the Bearcats, who were looking to upset the back-to-back defending champions.
Leading the way on offense were seniors Abby Brinkman, Tori Forrest and Cassidy Croci. Brinkman tallied 14 kills and Croci paced the team with a .280 hitting percentage en route to 11 kills of her own.
But with the Wildcats on their heels, down 15-11 in the fourth set, it was Forrest, one of the team’s co-captains, who led the Wildcats back. The team called a timeout, before storming back to tie the decisive set at 16. The back-and-forth play continued to a 21-21 tie. But back-to-back kills by Forrest and Croci gave the Wildcats a slim lead. A Binghamton kill was followed by a service error, and Forrest received the ball to serve the match point.
Forrest, a First Team All-Conference selection, ripped an ace to give her team the 25-22 set win, sealing the match 3-1 for the Wildcats and punching the team’s ticket into the finals for the third straight year.
The ace was one of two for Forrest, who also tallied 13 kills. Seniors Maggie Kenney and Madison Lightfoot, along with junior Setter of the Year Keelin Severtson, also tallied two aces apiece.
Lightfoot, the team’s other co-captain, was seemingly everywhere at once as she patrolled the backcourt. The libero notched 31 digs to cement the Wildcat defense, a number of which required diving efforts.
America East Co-Player of the Year Demi Muses also pitched in a solid defensive effort. The junior had five blocks and 17 digs, and also added six kills.
Severtson spread the offense around with 40 assists, tallying a double-double effort with 12 digs of her own.
The win raises the Wildcats’ record to 20-8 overall and 12-1 in America East play this season. It is the third year in a row that UNH has tallied 20 wins under head coach Jill Hirschinger, and ninth overall.
UNH will face off against No. 2-seeded Albany on Saturday night at 5 p.m. for the America East Championships. Last year, UNH defeated Albany in four sets. The winner of the conference championship will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

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