UNCG twice rallied from one-set deficits, Ancharra Montgomery came up with two game-sealing blocks, and the Spartans defeated Wofford 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 17-15) on Saturday night for their fifth consecutive win. It was senior night in Fleming Gym, and there could not have been a better way to send off one of the winningest senior classes in school history.
“I can’t speak enough about our seniors, the character they have, the work ethic,” head coach Corey Carlin said after the game. “This group is pretty special to me because they were freshmen when I was here. Ancharra [Montgomery] transferred in, but the other three—Katie [Wagner], Anna [Romaniszyn], and Ashley [Muench]—came in with me. So, to have the first senior class be here the whole time I was here, it’s a special thing.”
While it ended up being a perfect senior night in Fleming, it could have easily gone the other way. UNCG (16-10, 9-5 in conference play) did not start off the match the way they wanted to, and they had to weather a monster performance from Wofford’s Catie Cronister, who finished with a game-high 31 kills. The Terriers (18-10, 8-6 in conference play) cruised in the first set, then opened up with an early lead in the second set.
“To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the way we started the match,” Coach Carlin said. “That was a challenge, given it’s senior night. There is some emotion involved, but I would’ve liked to have seen a better start to the game. But we gutted it out. I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss.”
After that, UNCG settled in. They clawed back, rattling off six straight points, and decisively won the second set.
“We knew that [Wofford] made an obvious tactical choice to set a lot of weak side offense against us, a lot of balls went to the right pin, so we focused on being better defensively against that. They were sending a lot of balls to the back row attack and we wanted to defend that better, so we gave that a different look and changed some things defensively.”
The third set was hard fought, but ultimately won by Wofford. Facing set point, UNCG was charged with a controversial attacking violation, much to the displeasure of the Spartan faithful. The Terriers led 2-1. After that, UNCG would not trail again.
“I think really, what you saw was Wofford, and credit them, did a really great job of trying to press the issue… But I think one thing that helped us was that they got to a level in the third set and the fourth set where they had a little bit of a letdown. They were frantic to try to push through and they couldn’t sustain it. So our message to our kids in that moment was to stay composed and in rhythm on our side, and if the wheels fall off over there, that’s fine.”
The Spartans raced out to an 11-2 lead in the fourth. The Terriers cut that lead to 23-21, but could not get over the hump and UNCG won 25-22. As the Spartans returned to the bench to prepare for the fifth set, the rocking crowd at Fleming were on their feet and making noise.
“It’s always great to win in front of our fans. You know, the band was tremendous. The cheer team was tremendous. Any time we can win at home in front of this crowd, it’s a good thing,” Coach Carlin said.
UNCG led for most of the fifth set, but Wofford managed to draw even at 15 behind some outstanding play by Cronister. However, fittingly, it was senior transfer Ancharra Montgomery who saved the game for the Spartans on senior night. Montgomery rose, met Cronister at the net, and rejected her attack to take a 16-15 lead. Montgomery then produced another block on the next play to clinch the victory for the Spartans.
“Blocking is her strength,” Coach Carline said. “We knew that when we recruited her to come in for her fifth year. Blocking really fuels her game. When she’s getting positive touches at the net, when she’s a presence at the net, it really fuels everything else. And it’s a huge help for our team.”
UNCG defeated league-leading Furman the previous night, 3-1. UNCG’s Holly Behrends led the Spartans with 21 kills and 12 digs. The Spartans now move to sole possession of 3rd place in the SoCon standings, and will play Western Carolina in Fleming on Nov 8 before heading to Charleston on Nov 11 to face The Citadel in the regular season finale.