CULLOWHEE, N.C. – No. 3 seed UNCG volleyball (19-10) used big runs in the beginning of each set to defeat No. 6 seed Chattanooga (13-18) 3-1 (25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-16) in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Tournament on Friday night at the Ramsey Center. Winners of eight-straight matches, the Spartans will face No. 2 seed ETSU, who defeated No. 7 seed and host Western Carolina 3-0, in the semifinals tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.
"I'm really proud of our team," said UNCG head coach Corey Carlin. "We came out really focused, played really clean volleyball and kept the pressure on Chattanooga. That team is a challenge for us having split the last three regular seasons. It always seems that we face each other in the conference tournament. We knew we had to be ready, and the girls were. We came out point one of the first two sets especially and played very well. I'm very proud of our composure. We'll need that again tomorrow."
Senior outside hitter Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) led the way with a match-high 21 kills, hitting at a .183 average. Sophomore outside hitter Emily Keilen (Austin, Texas/Round Rock) registered nine kills, and redshirt senior middle hitter Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State) and sophomore middle hitter Lauren Robeck (Plainfield, Ill./North Plainfield) both scored eight kills, with Montgomery hitting at a .217 average.
Junior setter Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) finished with a match-high 41 assists and added 15 digs.
Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) led the Spartan defense with 26 digs and also had four assists. Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) tied a career-high with 20, and Muench also had 15.
"We really focused on playing clean," said Carlin. "Our offense was clicking very early. But we're a team where our defense fuels our offense. Our block did a really good job early denying balls and getting positive touches that we could convert to points. Our back court was very disciplined and had great posture. It allowed us to have a lot options. Our defense playing well really set the tone."
UNCG jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first set with Muench contributing four kills. After a 5-0 response by Chattanooga, the Spartans pulled away with an 8-2 run to lead 15-7 with the benefit of three attack and one service errors by the Mocs. Another Chattanooga service error gave the set to UNCG. Muench had nine kills and hit a .412 average in the set.
In the second set UNCG grabbed an 8-0 lead with a pair of kills and two attack and one ball handling errors by Chattanooga. The Mocs returned the favor with a 7-1 run, and eventually led 18-15 after a 9-2 run. The Spartans rallied back and eventually tied it up at 21-21. They won the set by closing it with a 10-4 run. Robeck, Romaniszyn, senior outside hitter Katie Wagner (Knoxville, Tennessee) and Montgomery all contributed at least one kill during the end run to help the Spartans' comeback to win the set.
Chattanooga was able to take the early lead (5-3) following the intermission. UNCG stormed back with an 11-3 run to take a 14-8 lead after five Spartans contributed kills. The Mocs cut their deficit down to two with a 6-0 run, but the Spartans pushed their lead in the set back to five with a 4-1 run. Chattanooga used two separate 5-1 runs to take the third set.
The final set once again saw UNCG jump out to an early lead of 8-3 after taking the first four points in the set and getting a 4-1 run as well with three-straight kills by Montgomery, Penner and Muench. The Spartans lead by at least four points the rest of the way to claim the victory with its most decisive winning set. Muench and Robeck provided a kill each, and the Mocs had three attacking errors as well in a 5-1 run by the Spartans to end the match.
"Credit to Chattanooga capitalizing off mistakes we made," said Carlin. "I thought we got a little bit tentative in the middle of the third set and our discipline started to get away from us a little bit. We refocused after the set. The girls knew it was in our control, and once we re-centered and played at the high level we started the match at we were able to close it out."
-- UNCG --