GREENSBORO, N.C. – Freshman outside hitters Maria Esch (Williamsburg, Va./Jamestown) and Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) helped turn the Spartan offense around to earn a 3-1 (25-27, 25-15, 25-18, 25-19) victory over the Presbyterian Blue Hose Friday evening in Fleming Gymnasium. The pair contributed 24 kills and hit at a .314 average in the come-from-behind win. The Spartans improve to 3-2 on the season, with Presbyterian falling to 0-4.
“I’m really happy with tonight’s win, being able to pull out a victory at home in front of our fans is always rewarding.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “We still have work to do. One of the primary focuses we had in practice this week was to limit our unforced errors. In the first set, we had too many. If we can play cleaner and be more assertive in those moments, we can really accomplish our goals and be where we want to be at the end of the year. That will be a focus heading into tomorrow, learning how to be assertive and more proactive to help make positive plays happen, instead of getting into a tendency of being reactive and waiting to see how will make the next play. That’s the next challenge for this team. We’re looking forward to the challenge tomorrow and taking a step forward in that direction.”
Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) led the Spartan offense with 17 kills, hitting at a .378 average in the match. She recorded her second double-double of the season, earning 13 digs. Esch and Behrends were the other two hitters that earned double-digit kills, with 14 and 10, respectively.
Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) played a well-rounded game, collecting 49 assists, six kills, and 18 digs. Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) solidified the backline, digging out 22 opponent attacks and adding four assists. Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) added 12 digs to the Spartans defense that earned 78 in total.
The first set was a back and forth affair, featuring 12 ties and eight lead changes. UNCG led by a few points early, before the Blue Hose made a 4-0 run to gain a 17-13 advantage. The Spartans battled back to force a tie at 21 after a Lauren Robeck (Plainfield, Ill./North Plainfield) kill. Presbyterian forced a match point following a block assists from Jaclyn Brewington and Allie Wright and a service ace. The Spartans took the lead following a kill and a solo block from Robeck and a kill from Muench forcing a 25-24 UNCG set point. Presbyterian scored three-straight points to take the first set 27-25.
UNCG bounced back in the second set, scoring 19 kills, with one error hitting at a .514 average. The .514 average is the best in a single set this season for the Spartan offense. After being knotted at four each, UNCG rallied to score 13 of the next 15 points to take a 17-6 lead. The teams traded points down the stretch, but Presbyterian could come no closer than seven points as the Spartans pulled away. Muench was a perfect 6-for-6 in the match, with Esch going 5-for-9 with one hitting error.
The Spartans cooled a bit out of intermission, hitting at a .216 average in the third set. UNCG and Presbyterian were tied at 12 before the Spartans made a 4-1 run to take a 17-13 lead. Esch provided a pair of kills in the run, with Behrends adding another. After a Spartan serving error pulled the game to 21-18, UNCG scored four-straight points to take the set. Kills from Muench, Behrends and Robeck fueled the rally.
The Blue and Gold continued to pound the offense in the fourth, scoring 18 kills in the final set. After being tied at two, UNCG went on an 8-1 run to take the lead at 10-3. Presbyterian cut the lead to 11-8 after an Erin Eulitz kill. The Spartans stretched the lead back out to seven following a Presbyterian attack error. The teams were back and forth before UNCG ended the match on kills from Robeck and Behrends.
The Spartans are back in action tomorrow morning against North Carolina A&T at the Ellis F. Corbett Sports Center on the Aggies’ campus.