Wednesday and Saturday saw the UNCG Volleyball team play their final two matches of the regular season. Against the Catamounts of Western Carolina and The Citadel, the Spartans won each match in five sets to end their season on a seven match win streak and find themselves in third place in the SoCon (Southern Conference) playoffs.
Against Western Carolina, UNCG came through a five set match against the Western Carolina Catamounts to finish out the 2017 home schedule Wednesday night in the Fleming Gym. The Spartans won the contest 3-2 (17-25, 25-17, 16-25, 25-17, 16-14).
“Obviously it’s good to get a win in your final home match. We still have work to do to polish our game and be at the level we want to be at heading into the postseason” said head coach Corey Carlin. “Once we refocused I left like our level of play was raised and we were able to play to the level that we are accustomed to.” Carlin continued to say, “that’ll be a challenge going forward for our team, to be better prepared mentally and better focus to start matches. We need that heading into the postseason and that’ll be a focus for us moving forward.”
The story Wednesday night had to be the defensive showing from the blue and gold. The team had a season high of 97 digs led by Christina Gregory and Junior Allison Penner, as she added a double double with a season high of 20 digs with 46 assists. Ashley Muench let the offense with 17 kills on 60 attempts, Senior Anna Romaniszyn added 16 digs with Holly adding Behrends adding 11 as well. Western Carolina pulled away in the first set using a 4-0 run to add to the lead that they already had.
The Spartans later cut the lead down to five at 22-17, but three straight Spartan attack errors gave the Catamounts the first set. The Spartans recovered to tie up the match in the second set with an identical score. After being tied at six, they went on a 7-0 run by Emily Keilen to cut the lead down to 15-11. In the final set, UNCG came back from a three point deficit late trailing 13-10, to go on a 6-1 run. Ashley Muench scored back to back kills to win the match for the Spartans.
With them winning the last game of the season again the Citadel 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-11). The Citadel finishes the season 8-23 overall and 2-14 in conference play. Redshirt senior Annchara Montgomery came up huge for the Spartans when they needed her the most. She came away with 11 kills and three attacks in the final two sets to give the Spartans the win. Montgomery set a record as well with her great performance with a career best of 17 kills while hitting at .406 average in the match. Sophomore Lauren Robeck had her season high of 11 kills in the match as well. Allison Penner finished the game 45 assists and nine digs. UNCG had to find a way to come back in the fourth set, trailing 21-18 as they found a way to go on a 7-1 run. The fifth and decisive set of the match saw lead 9-8. As the Spartans doubled up the Citadel down the stretch, they got kills from Montgomery and Esch, as well as blocks from Penner and Robeck. To win the set and the match, Esch had a tip in at the net that fell through the defenders for the final point.
With an 18-10 record (11-5 in conference), the Spartans will enter this week’s Southern Conference Tournament as the three seed. Waiting for them in the opening match will be the Chattanooga Mocs. The tournament begins on this Friday at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee North Carolina. And as a final note, regardless of the results of the tournament, this year’s senior class for the Spartans now has won more regular season Southern Conference matches than any other Spartan class has in the past. Katie Montgomery, Anna Romaniszyn and Ashley Muench combined to win 44-20 SoCon marches in their careers.