GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG volleyball hits the road as it heads to Athens, Ga. for a matchup with the UCF Knights in the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) Tuesday evening at 4. The winner of Tuesday’s contest will face the winner of Alabama A&M and Georgia Wednesday. The Spartans enter the tournament with a 19-11 record having won eight of their last nine. UCF is 19-13 and have won its last six matches.
The first two rounds of the NIVC for these four teams will be played at the Ramsey Student Center with free admission.The NIVC features 32 teams that will participate in a single elimination tournament. For more information, visit the NIVC webpage.
This is the first postseason appearance as a Division I program. UNCG volleyball has competed in four NCAA Tournaments, three at Division III (1982, 1983, 1984) and one at Division II (1990).
Live stats will be available with a link on the UNCG volleyball schedule page.
UNCG was on an eight-match winning streak before falling to the eventual SoCon Tournament Champion, ETSU in the SoCon Tournament, Nov. 18th. The Spartans finished the regular season as the No. 3 seed in the SoCon Tournament and defeated Chattanooga before falling to the ETSU.
Two Spartans were named first team All-SoCon with Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) taking home Player of the Year honors. Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) has led the league in assists the last two seasons and was named first team All-SoCon for the second-straight season.
Muench leads the Spartans with a 3.65 kills per set average and is hitting at a .244 average. That clip is the best of her career as she has totaled 402 kills on the season. Freshman All-SoCon selection Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) adds 2.55 kills per set, knocking home 258 kills on the season.
Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State) and Lauren Robeck (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) have anchored the middle of the court towards the end of the season. Montgomery has started 26 of 30 matches. She scores an average of 1.93 kills per set, and blocks 0.91 opponent attacks. Robeck has scored 1.56 kills per set, to go with 23 total blocks in limited playing time.
The Blue and Gold backcourt have several key contributors to its defense. Led by the 2016 SoCon Libero of the Year, Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy), the Spartans boast a 17.06 digs per set average, tops in the SoCon and 34th in the country in that category. The Spartan defense is one of the best in the SoCon, limiting opponents to just a .181 hitting percentage, ranking 74th in the nation.
Led by Gregory, the Spartans have five players who average more than 2.20 digs per set. Gregory has earned a 4.80 average, with senior outside hitter Muench digging 2.77 opponent attacks per set. Junior setter Penner adds 2.66 digs per set, and defensive specialists Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) and Grace Howell (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) average 2.68 and 2.20 digs per set, respectively.
The Knights enter the tournament having won their last six matches. During that run, the Knights defeated Tulane, Houston, Temple, UConn and USF, twice. UCF has dropped just two sets since Nov. 10. The 12-8 record in American play put UCF as the fifth-place team in the final standings.
Kia Bright leads the UCF offense with a 3.88 kills per set average. Kristina Fisher backs her up with 2.90 kills per set. The Knights use a two-setter approach with Erin Olson and Miranda Watkins adding 5.78 and 5.59 assists per set. Olson leads the team with 705 total assists, with Watkins adding 5.59. Watkins has added to her offense with her serve, recording 23 service aces on the season.
The Knight’s defense has three players who average at least 2.02 digs per set. Jordan Pingel leads the team with a 4.27 per set average, recording 521 total digs. Bright adds 3.05 digs per set, with Olson and Watkins chipping in 2.33 and 2.02 digs per set, respectively.
The Georgia Bulldogs enter the NIVC at 20-11, winning two of their last three. The Bulldogs finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 10-8 league mark. Alabama A&M enters the tournament with a 14-19 overall record. The Lady Bulldogs went 14-4 the Southwestern Athletic Conference and earned the SWAC’s automatic bid into the tournament.