Last Saturday night, in front of a record setting crowd, the UNCG Volleyball team closed out their home opener with a hard fought match against Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Despite the loss, the Spartans left the tournament with a 2-1 record and a great showcase for the new year.
UNCG’s Volleyball team is entering this season “very confident” and knowing they have some “unfinished business” to handle going into this preseason. Losing in the semi-finals during the conference tournament last season left a “bad taste in their mouth”, so they are ready do what they’ve known was possible since last season: win a championship. Head Coach Corey Carlin says the team has known they were a championship caliber team for “quite a while now” so their eyes are on the prize this season.
Despite being ranked No. 2 by the coach preseason rankings, Carlin isn’t letting up. As he acknowledges the honor of being ranked so highly, he says he doesn’t pay much attention to the rankings going into the season because “potential and how you perform are two different things,” and he’s going for No. 1.
Playing at home is a reward for any team, but this season the Spartans are hosting sixteen home games, which Carlin says is the most since 2012. Three of their 16 home games happened this past weekend at Fleming Gymnasium during the Spartan-Demon Deacon Classic, where UNCG came out the gate hard sweeping their first opponent, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 3-0. Their next set of home matches will be Labor Day weekend for the Spartan-Aggie Invitational where they will face inner-city rivals, the North Carolina A&T Aggies, Presbyterian and Delaware State.
Coach Carlin has a lot of faith in his team going into this season. He notes that he doesn’t relay last season onto the upcoming season; although, there is one thing he is immensely proud of his girls for from last season and that is – their team GPA. It is evident that the work the team puts in off the court is just as important as winning championships, and last season they were recognized for it. For the first time in UNCG history, the volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association Team Academic Award; it is a national award given to academically strong volleyball programs, out of 337 Division I teams.
Team accolades don’t end there. Senior outside hitter Ashley Muench, junior setter Allison Penner, and junior defensive specialist Christina Gregory were awarded All-SoCon honors. This is annually awarded to players in the Southern Conference who earn and maintain a 3.0 GPA or above, amongst other requirements. Coach Carlin plans to look to these three ladies along with other players to make a big impact on the court this season.
It has been a busy offseason for the Spartans. Three freshmen were added to the team after losing four seniors from last year’s squad. Coach Carlin says that “all three of [the incoming freshman] have a bright future.” He mentions the depth on the Spartan roster saying that if they “come in with the right mindset…practice and compete” then there are some roles that they can take on for the team. For now, he says it’s “exciting to see how confident they are becoming in our system and understanding what it takes to be a really good volleyball player at UNCG.”
Additionally, the Spartan volleyball team went through the process of finding a new assistant coach for the squad. Strong recommendations and work ethic, amongst other qualities won Taylor Pritchett the position.
Carlin, the team of players and coaches are excited to be opening up at home and continuing their home games through the season. Go support the Spartan volleyball squad this Friday in Fleming Gymnasium at 7:00pm as they take on Presbyterian College to kick off the Spartan-Aggie Invitational. The UNCG vs. North Carolina A&T match will be Sept. 2.