It was a disappointing week for UNCG Volleyball (6-8), which lost all four of its matches, including a showdown vs crosstown against rival High Point that saw a near-record crowd in Fleming Gym.
Coming off a hard-fought victory at Iona College on Sep 14, the Spartans looked to continue their success against High Point (8-7). The fans came out in full-force, packing Fleming Gym with 1054 spectators. It was the third-highest attendance in program history.
Unfortunately, the Blue and Gold could not deliver. The Panthers raced out to an early 7-3 lead thanks in part to a service error by UNCG’s Maria Esch and two aces by the Panthers’ Mackenzi Thornburg. After a long, intense rally on the ensuing serve that left Fleming gasping for air, the Panthers’ Gabrielle Idlebird (six kills) nailed a kill into the teeth of the UNCG defense. Down 8-3, UNCG Head Coach Corey Carlin called a timeout.
The Spartans slowly clawed their way back, forcing a Panther timeout then exploding for a 7-2 run to knot the first set at 16. Despite the hostile environment, High Point retained their composure and slowly pulled away, anchored by the 6’0 Idlebird, Kaley Rammelsburg (who finished with nine kills) and their relentless patrolling of the net. Down 24-21, another Esch (eight kills, three digs) service error gave the Panthers the win in set one one.
It was more of the same in the second set, with HPU eventually reaching out to a 13-6 lead. Four consecutive errors got UNCG back to within three at 17-14, but two consecutive Rammelsburg kills squashed any hopes of a Spartan comeback. The Panthers eventually won the second set 25-20.
Fleming, once rioting, was now mostly mumbles. Some had already headed for the exits, and things only got worse for the Spartans, which quickly found themselves down 5-0 in the third. After a Corey Carlin timeout, the Spartans rattled off six of the next seven points to tie the set at 6-6, but UNCG couldn’t keep up the intensity. High Point scored four in a row and the lead mostly hovered around 4 points until the end of the set.
However two late errors from the Panthers gave UNCG a chance to survive, now down just 24-23. HPU called for timeout as the late-game tension descended upon Fleming. Maria Esch served, but Thornburg set up a beautiful assist for Megan Kratzer, who spiked in between two defenders and gave HPU a dominant 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-23) victory.
It was a disappointing performance, but they had little time to reflect and hit the road for three games in three days, heading to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Jefferson Cup. It’s a brutal schedule for these student-athletes who have mountains of homework on top of their games.
The Spartans were again shutout vs Elon, lost 3-1 to Lehigh, then were shutout yet again against Virginia. The Cavaliers recorded fifteen more kills and ten more assists than the outmatched and exhausted Spartans.
With a week off, the Spartans urgently need to turn things around if they wish to salvage the season. UNCG will finally return home on Friday vs Western Carolina in the conference opener.