DURHAM, N.H. – Led by a veteran group of three seniors and six upperclassmen, the 2011 University of New Hampshire volleyball team is poised to make a run at an America East title and a trip to the NCAAs.
Head coach Jill Hirschinger, who enters her 16th season at UNH, added six newcomers to balance an already strong group of returnees. Hirschinger recently moved into the top 10 in NCAA active coaching wins with nearly 650 wins in her storied career. New Hampshire returns an America East All-Conference selection (Amy Keding) as well as an All-Rookie team honoree (Destiny Tolliver), which should provide a solid foundation for this year's team.
Outside Hitters/Right-Side Hitters: Seniors Lauren Laquerre (Concord, N.H.) and Amy Keding (Northbrook, Ill.) give the Wildcats a veteran presence up front. Laquerre, a co-captain, registered a team-high 318 kills including 3.35 kills per set and a team-best 355.5 points. Keding, an America East All-Conference selection, tallied 297 kills, 208 digs, 62 blocks and 339 points in her breakout junior season. Complimenting this senior duo is the sophomore lefty tandem of Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.) and Morgan Thatcher (Brockton, Mass.). Tolliver, a 2010 America East All-Rookie selection, finished her first year among the team leaders in several categories with 125 kills, 91 digs and 182 points. Tolliver was named America East Rookie of the Week on back-to-back weeks on Sept. 27 & Oct. 4. Thatcher emerged as a viable threat from the right side position down the stretch for New Hampshire. She ranked sixth on the team with 118 kills and 27 blocks, including three contests where she recorded a personal-best 10 kills. Thatcher also registered the highest hitting percentage at .242. Rounding out this group of hitters is junior transfer Desiree Ates (Regina, Saskatchewan). Ates helped her team, Pasco Hernando Community College, to a 36-6 record season and a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship in 2010. Desiree was selected to the 2010 AVCA and NJCAA All-America First Team and the 2010 NJCAA National All-Tournament Team.
Middle Blockers: Senior Jessy Dick (Lethbridge, Alberta) anchors things in the middle for UNH. Dick played in nine matches and 23 sets as a junior. She registered 15 kills, 13 digs and 22 blocks over the course of the season, including a season-high five kills and four digs on Sept. 3 against Boston College. Joining Dick are a pair of freshmen Delaney Dameron (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Natalie Decker (Warsaw, Ind.). Delaney was selected to the 2009 5A All-State First Team and was named a Senior All-Star in 2010, while Decker was a three-time All-Conference Team selection from 2008-2010. In 2010, Decker racked up 384 kills, 84 blocks, 43 aces, and 148 digs.
Setters: Junior co-captain Jansan Falcusan (Plymouth, Mich.) and freshman Taylor Dunklau (Mukowonago, Wis.) will compete for the starting setter job in 2011. Falcusan served as the backup setter for the last two seasons and appeared in four matches and 10 sets during her sophomore year. Dunklau was a 2010 All-State Honorable Mention and a 2010 All-Conference Team selection during her senior season. She was also a member of the AAU/JVA Nationals Team in 2009 and 2010.
Defensive Specialists: Junior Jessie Schnepp (East Longmeadow, Mass.) brings experience to the New Hampshire defense. She registered 139 digs, which was the fifth best on the team, including a pair of 12-dig performances to Rutgers and UMBC. During the season, Schnepp also added 20 aces and was one of the team's top servers. Joining Schnepp on defense are newcomers Katie Sattora (Avon, N.Y.) and Sam Henke (Millersville, Md.). Sattora was a five-time LCAA All-Star and a four-time Section V All-Star. She helped her team reach the sectional semi-finals all four years (2007-10), including a second place finish in the 2007 sectional finals. Henke, who missed all of 2010 with injury, was the team leader in both digs and kills in 2008 and 2009. She was an All-County First Team selection and a 2009 Washington Post All-Metro First Team member.
Schedule: The Wildcats open their 2011 campaign on Friday, Aug. 26 at the West Virginia University Mountaineers Invitational. UNH will play the host Mountaineers as well as Ohio State, Towson and Valparaiso during the opening weekend of competition at WVU.
New Hampshire then travels to Pittsburgh (Sept. 2-3) for the UPitt Invitational with the host Panthers, Miami (OH) and four-time defending national champion Penn State. The Wildcats will travel to Northeastern for a single non-conference match Sept. 6, before playing host to some elite talent at the Holly Young Invitational.
New Hampshire opens up play at the Holly Young Invite with Missouri Valley Conference foe Indiana State (Sept. 9 – 7 p.m.) before playing a pair of Nutmeg State foes in Fairfield (Sept. 10 – 12:30 p.m.) and Connecticut (Sept. 10 – 7 p.m.).
The Wildcats travel south for a single match at Harvard Sept. 13 followed by a trip to Connecticut for the Yale/Quinnipiac Tournament. UNH will play both hosts at their home gyms and will also face Army over the weekend (Sept. 16-17).
The 'Cats continue non-conference play when they host Bryant University Sept. 20.
UNH will open America East conference play Saturday, Sept. 24 when it travels to Hartford (4 p.m.). The Wildcats play five-straight America East games in the month of October before ending their non-conference slate at Holy Cross Oct. 26. New Hampshire ends the regular season with four-straight league matches on the road.
The Wildcats hope to earn a spot in the four-team America East tournament slated for Nov. 18-20 at the site of the highest seed.
Overall, UNH will play nine teams in the top half of the RPI, including two in the top 30 (Penn State – 1, Ohio State – 29). The Wildcats have won three America East Tournament titles (1998, 2002, 2003) and earned three NCAA appearances in school history, all of which have come under Coach Hirschinger.