GREENSBORO, N.C. – Redshirt senior Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State) led the Spartan defense to a season-high 15 blocks as the Spartans buckled down to take the fourth and fifth sets, earning a 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 17-25, 25-18, 15-13) win over the High Point Panthers Friday night in Fleming Gym. UNCG improves to 7-3 on the season, with High Point falling to 5-6.
“I’m very proud of our team tonight.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “What a great win for our program. High Point is a very well coached team. They are solid in all phases. We knew it was going to be a real battle; it always is when we play each other. When both teams are playing at their best, you know it’s going to be a war and that’s what we had tonight. I’m very proud of the way our team came out and how we maintained our focus throughout the match. Our blocking, particularly in the left front, was a huge factor in the win. We had worked on certain things during the week to put us in good position against this team, we were very disciplined and that translated to the match.”
“Ashley Muench’s performance was huge.” Carlin continued, “She came up big for us in so many spots. Its good to have the senior leadership we do on this team and her performance tonight was a big factor in this win. Annchara Montgomery had her best offensive performance of the season tonight, that’s going to be big for this team moving forward. Overall, that was a great win. Our challenge now is to refocus. We have a short turnaround and have to get ready for Elon tomorrow.”
This year’s match had a similar feel to last year’s. In 2016, High Point was the home team and earned a 3-2 victory, defeating UNCG 15-13 in the final set. The biggest difference between the matches comes from the Spartans block. The 2016 matchup saw UNCG tally eight blocks in a losing effort. This year’s edition of the rivalry featured 15 Spartan blocks, led by Montgomery. Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) added a solo block and five block assists and Megan Moran (Smithsburg, Md./Smithsburg) added three block assists and a solo block.
Montgomery’s defense turned the tide in the final sets. Montgomery recorded four kills and blocked five High Point attacks in the final two sets to help UNCG earn the victory. The senior was a constant threat on the offensive side of the net, scoring 14 kills on 23 attacks, good for a .565 average in the match.
Muench led all performers with 20 kills, hitting at a .333 average. Freshman Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) added 11 kills in the victory.
Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) tallied 50 assists to lead all competitors, and chipped in nine digs. Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) and Grace Howell (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) tallied double-digit digs. Gregory led the Spartans with 22 and Howell added 12.
The first set featured 10 ties and saw the Spartans trailing 22-19 before a UNCG timeout stopped a Panther rally before it could close out the set. UNCG then scored five of the next six points down the stretch to take the first set. Behrends contributed two kills in the run, and a Muench service ace helped UNCG take the early lead.
UNCG fell behind early in the second set, with High Point jumping out to an 8-3 lead following two UNCG attack errors. The Spartans came within two following a Montgomery kill at 15-13, but High Point used a 5-1 run to gain a 19-14 advantage. That lead was all the Panthers needed as High Point continued to stifle the Spartans, earning a 25-20 win in set two.
After the intermission, UNCG took an early lead but High Point was able to knot the set up at 12 before taking its first lead. After High Point went up 16-15, the Panthers went on a 5-0 run to put some separation between the two teams. The Spartans got points off of a kill from Behrends and block from Penner and Lauren Robeck (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) down the stretch, but UNCG was unable to complete the comeback in the third set, falling 25-17.
Montgomery set the tone early in the fourth set, recording back-to-back solo blocks and a kill to put UNCG up early at 5-0. That five-point lead was as much as the Spartans needed, as UNCG held off the Panthers in the fourth set. High Point cut the lead down to three at 13-10 before UNCG went on a 7-0, going up 20-10 following another Montgomery kill. The teams traded points, with High Point cutting the lead to six following a Haley Barnes kill, but UNCG took the set 25-18.
The final set lived up to the hype as UNCG earned the narrow victory. The Spartans raced out to an 8-2 lead after a Muench kill. High Point wasn’t deterred as the Panthers fought back to tie the game at 13 all. A High Point service error put UNCG at match point, and the connection of Penner to Muench finished the set and the match, giving UNCG its seventh win of the season.
The Spartans are back in action tomorrow morning in Alumni Gym on Elon University’s campus at 11 a.m. in the second leg of the Tussle in the Triad.