GREENSBORO, N.C. – Powered by a stellar performance from senior Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange), UNCG volleyball began the 2017 season with a convincing 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-16) sweep over the UMass Lowell River Hawks Friday night inside Fleming Gymnasium. Muench led all scorers with 21 kills, hitting at a .474 average in the match.
The Spartans were led by Muench offensively, with six other players earning multiple kills in the contest. Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) dished out 37 assists on the night, adding five kills on eight attempts, and four digs. Grace Howell (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) led the defense, earning a career-best 15 digs in the three-set victory. Megan Moran (Smithsburg, Md./Smithsburg), Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) and Maria Esch (Williamsburg, Va./Jamestown) each earned their first collegiate kills in the match.
“I was really pleased with how we weathered the storm of our home opener tonight.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “We knew there’d be some anxiety, some butterflies and just working through that was key in the first set. Something we talked about in the pregame was really establishing a rhythm and getting the jitters out. I felt like we had an opportunity for several players to see some time, and we were able to do that tonight. The second set was a little closer than we’d like, but everyone contributed in a positive way. We have some things to sharpen up yet this weekend, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
“Individually, I’m really proud of our seniors. We started Katie (Wagner) at right side. She’s had a really good preseason and did well in the first set. Anna (Romaniszyn)’s ball control has been a huge factor in our success for a long time now. Ashley (Muench) has really become a complete player. It was great to see that she’s playing at a high level in all facets of the game in her senior season. She really shouldered the load for us tonight and we’re looking forward to seeing what she’ll bring tomorrow as well.”
The first set featured a heavy dose of the senior outside hitter. Muench finished the first set with six kills in 12 attempts. The Spartans jumped out to a 12-7 lead after Muench’s third kill of the set. After back-to-back River Hawk attack errors put the Spartans up by seven, UNCG halted every UML rally, not allowing the River Hawks to get within six points, and Muench scored the final two Spartan points to give UNCG the first set.
Muench continued to dominate the second set, scoring 10 kills on 14 attempts in the set. The River Hawks battled tough in the second set, forcing a tie at 17 all before UNCG made its run. The Spartans scored three-straight points, aided by kills from Muench and Emily Keilen (Austin, Texas/Round Rock HS) and a UML attack error. After exchanging points, UNCG got kills from Muench and Penner to earn the set.
After a kill from Behrends put UNCG up 9-4, the Spartans didn’t allow the River Hawks to come within five points for the rest of the set. Kills from Moran, Behrends and Esch put UNCG to match point before taking advantage of a UMass Lowell attack error to earn the set and the match.
UNCG returns to action Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. against the Morgan State Bears as part of the Spartan-Demon Deacon Classic.