JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – In UNCG volleyball’s first competition outside of North Carolina in 2017, the Spartans earned a 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 26-24, 25-20) victory over the preseason SoCon favorite, ETSU Bucs. Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) led all competitors with 21 kills in the match. The victory marks the first win in Johnson City for the Spartans since the 2002 season. UNCG improves to 8-5 and 1-0 in the SoCon. ETSU falls to 5-8 and 1-1 in SoCon action.
“I could not be more proud of our team.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “We took a big step forward as a program tonight. ETSU is a very good team and very well coached. We knew it was going to be a real battle. Our team showed great fight and I’m most proud of the composure and focus we had when the score got close. Playing steady in those moments is the mark of a great team and we did that tonight. The challenge now is to do it again tomorrow against another quality opponent.”
Muench led all with 21 kills and she was backed up by freshman Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego). Behrends notched 14 kills, hitting at a .364 average in the match. Juniors Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) and Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) were key factors in the match. Penner tallied 46 assists and nine digs, with Gregory adding 16 digs. Senior Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) earned a match-best 18 digs in the victory.
UNCG took an early lead in the first set, using a 5-0 run to take a 13-7 lead. ETSU climbed back into the match, knotting it up at 19 after scoring four-straight points, aided by a block and two UNCG attack errors. The teams tied at 20 and 21 before UNCG scored back-to-back points to take a 23-21 lead. After an ETSU kill, the Spartans closed the set out on a Muench kill and an ETSU attack error to take the set, 25-22.
ETSU responded in the second set, taking a 15-8 lead early as UNCG used both of its timeouts to slow the Bucs down. The Spartans cut the lead down to 15-12 following a 4-0 Spartan run, with UNCG utilizing a pair of ETSU attack errors and a block assist from Penner and Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State). With the score 16-13, ETSU, the Bucs scored seven of the next eight points to take a commanding lead at 23-14. UNCG scored three of the next four to cut the lead to 23-18, but ETSU got a kill from AJ Lux and a service ace from Lexie Libs to tie the match up at 1-1.
UNCG gained the early advantage in the third set, using a 5-0 run to take the lead at 15-10. The teams exchanged points before ETSU scored four of five to tie the set up at 19 all. A pair of UNCG attack errors and a service error helped the Bucs tie the set. ETSU and UNCG were tied five more times down the stretch before UNCG scored back-to-back points after a bad ETSU set and a kill from Muench gave UNCG the third set
The Spartans raced out to a big lead in the fourth set, taking a 19-10 lead before ETSU was able to cut into the lead. The Bucs battled back to trim the lead down to 22-19, but UNCG scored three of the next four points to take the final set, 25-20. Muench scored the game-winning kill in the set.
The Spartans return to action tomorrow evening as they head to Chattanooga to take on the Mocs at 6 p.m.