DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire volleyball team looks to earn its fourth America East Tournament title as the top-seeded Wildcats host the second seed University of Maryland, Baltimore Country Retrievers on Saturday, Nov. 23 (4 p.m.) in Lundholm Gymnasium.
SCOUTING UMBC: The Retrievers look to earn their first-ever America East Championship banner as UMBC returns to the conference championship since its last appearance in 2010. The University of Albany Great Danes were swept by UMBC in three (25-19, 25-16, 25-16) as the Retrievers advanced to the finals. Junior outside hitter Hannah Schmidt struck a game-high 16 kills and picked up 11 digs for her ninth double-double of the season to lead UMBC. Senior setter Mallory McIntyre also notched a double-double on 33 assists and 12 digs. Two Retrievers logged double figures in digs as freshman libero Casey Griffith scooped up 16 digs while senior Hallie Carter registered ten of her own.
Leading the Retrievers in kills, outside hitters Ali Goc paces the offense by averaging 2.71 kills per set on 312 finishes. Assisting the attack, outside hitters Hannah Schmidt (2.53 kps), Emily Witsaman (2.53 kps), Sherelle Walker (2.52 kps) and Krystal Mlemchukwu (2.41 kps) have eclipsed at least 200 kills as well.
Coordinating the offense, setter Mallory McIntyre (10.26 assists per game) has quarterbacked the Retrievers to a .204 hitting percentage.
In the backcourt, libero Casey Griffith leads the defense in digs with 4.17 digs per set to curb opponents to a 1.58 clip. At the net, middle blocker Mlemchukwu leads the Retrievers in blocks, averaging 0.94 blocks per set.
THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire enters the championships as the number one seed, riding an eight-game winning streak. The Wildcats topped Stony Brook University 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-17) in the semifinal match on Friday, Nov. 22.
Powered by a season-high 13 blocks, the Wildcat defense curbed the Seawolves to a .042 hitting percentage in the semifinal. Senior right side hitter Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.) led the defense with eight blocks followed by freshman middle blocker Demi Muses (Orangevale, Calif.) with four. Sophomore defensive specialist Madison Lightfoot (Clarkston, Mich.) scooped up 16 digs in the win. The attack featured sophomore outside hitters Tori Forrest (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Abby Brinkman (Brecksville, Ohio) with seven kills apiece. Junior setter Taylor Dunklau (Mukwonago, Wis.) registered 24 assists to power UNH to 29 kills in the match.
Senior right side hitter Morgan Thatcher (Brockton, Mass.) paces the 'Cats in kills per set with a 3.01 average this season. Assisting the attack is Forrest, tallying 2.96 kps. Quarterbacking the offense to a .201 hitting percentage, Dunklau has dished out 9.65 aps this season. Curbing the opponents' attack to a .180 clip, Lightfoot leads the way with 4.56 dps. Defending the net, Tolliver boasts the conference's best block per set average to compile 1.04 bps.
AMERICA EAST ACCOLADES: A total of seven University of New Hampshire volleyball student-athletes, led by Player of the Year Morgan Thatcher were honored at the America East annual banquet that was held Thursday, Nov. 21 at Huddleston Hall on the UNH campus. Furthermore, head coach Jill Hirschinger and her coaching staff were bestowed the Coaching Staff of the Year award.
Hirschinger garnered her fifth America East Coaching Staff of the Year award with UNH. In her 18th season with the Wildcats, the head coach last received to the honor back in 2003. This season with Hirschinger at the helm, the 'Cats had a conference-best 12-2 record including a perfect 7-0 in America East play at Lundholm Gymnasium.
New Hampshire tied the highest total members on the America East All-Conference First and Second Team with two on both. Representing the conference First Team honorees were senior right side hitter Thatcher and sophomore outside hitter Tori Forrest. The last time UNH was honored with two First Team selections dates back to 2007 (Kirsten Bates and Emmy Blouin). In addition, Forrest was the lone representative of the sophomore class on the First Team ballot. The America East Second Team includes junior setter Taylor Dunklau and senior right side hitter Destiny Tolliver.
The Wildcats also placed freshman middle blocker Demi Muses to the All-Rookie team, marking the third time in four years UNH has had a student-athlete named to the conference All-Rookie team.
The 'Cats had the highest amount of student-athletes named to the America East All-Academic team with three, tying a program-best with the 2007 UNH volleyball team (Kristen Bated, Kate Uitti and Jessica Compton). Sophomore middle blocker Cassidy Croci (Sylvania, Ohio), junior defensive specialist Sam Henke (Millersville, Md.) and Forrest all earned their first-ever All-Academic awards.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. UMBC: Against the Retrievers, the Wildcats are 13-9 overall and 6-5 at Lundholm Gymnasium. New Hampshire swept the season series with wins of 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-13; Oct. 6) on the road and 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-11) in Durham. Furthermore, New Hampshire currently has a four-game winning streak against UMBC, the longest in the career series between the two institutions.
WELCOME TO LUNDHOLM: The Wildcats boast an 11-1 record at home this season and has yet to lose against an America East opponent in Lundholm Gymnasium. UNH has won a combined 33 sets while conceding just nine. The last time New Hampshire was defeated at home was Sept. 7 against Missouri State (0-3; 22-25, 22-25, 22-25) in the Holly Young Invitational.
UNH IN THE AMERICA EAST CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Wildcats return to the conference championships for the 12th time in program history and the fourth appearance in five years. Additionally, UNH appears in its seventh championship game with a 3-3 record. In the America East Championships, New Hampshire is 10-8 overall. Head coach Jill Hirschinger has guided the 'Cats to all 12 of UNH's postseason appearances.
HOSTING THE CHAMPIONSHIP: The Wildcats are 7-0 when UNH hosts the conference tournament, earning three tournament championships. New Hampshire last hosted the championships back in 2003, topping Albany in the semifinals and Northeastern in the championship game.
TREND SETTERS: As a team in conference matches, New Hampshire leads America East in hitting percentage (.237), assists (12.6 aps) and kills (13.6 kps).
ARMED AND DANGEROUS: New Hampshire boasts the top two hitters in kills per set amongst conference members in America East games. Forrest leads the conference with a 3.74 kps average followed by Thatcher (3.30). In addition, Delaney Dameron (Alpharetta, Ga.) holds the highest hitting percentage in the conference in America East games, compiling a .333 clip.
REWRITING THE BOOKS: Currently, three UNH volleyball players rank in the all-time top 10 in assists, blocks, kills and total attacks. Dunklau ranks third in program history, dishing out 1,916 assists. Tolliver joined the 300 block club against Hartford (Oct. 13) and has accumulated 341 in her career, fourth in program history. Becoming just the seventh member of the 1,000 kill club, Thatcher reached the milestone in a nine-kill performance at UMBC (Oct. 6). Thatcher has notched 1,038 kills and 2,928 attack attempts in her career, ranking fifth and sixth respectively. This season, Lightfoot snapped the single-game digs mark by tallying 39 in a five-set win in the regular season finale against Binghamton (Nov. 17).
BLOCK PARTY: The Wildcats earned a season-high 13 blocks in the conference semifinal win against Stony Brook. It marks the most blocks in a game since Oct. 13, 2012 at Hartford (17). Tolliver's eight blocks against the Seawolves was the most by a player in a three set match amongst conference participants.
PASSING CLINIC: The matchup between UMBC and UNH will feature two of the top passers in America East play. Mallory McIntyre, a two-time America East Setter of the Year for the Retrievers holds the top assists per set average in conference play with 11.05 aps. The Wildcats feature America East Second Team selection Dunklau who has averaged 10.98 aps against the conference.
19 STRAIGHT: UNH had a 19-set winning streak before it was snapped in the second frame at home against Albany on Nov. 15 New Hampshire would eventually defeat the Great Danes by a score of 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-10).
WHAT'S AT STAKE?: The winner of the America East Tournament will recieve an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament.