2012 UNCG Volleyball Season In Review
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Although the UNCG volleyball team fell short of its ultimate goal of winning the Southern Conference Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Championship during the 2012 season, the program is definitely headed in the right direction.
The Blue and Gold fought through two significant injuries to finish 13-16 overall and 7-9 in Southern Conference play – comfortably qualifying for the league tournament.
The year began with a bang as the Spartans swept through the North Carolina Central Volleyball Invitational, defeating N.C Central and Hampton in four sets before rallying from a 2-0 deficit to down eventual Big South champion and NCAA participant Liberty 3-2.
A key factor in the victory over the Lady Flames was senior setter Ari Lysacek, who fell just one kill short of a triple-double in the match. UNCG suffered a serious blow in its next contest at High Point as Lysacek went down with a significant ankle injury at the very end of the first set. Sophomore Emily McMurtrey did a fine job in her stead, nearly leading the Spartans all the way back from a 2-0 hole, but UNCG eventually dropped the fifth set and the match to the Panthers.
McMurtrey was more than adequate in Lysacek's absence, leading the Spartans to near upset victories over Patriot League and Ohio Valley Conference powers American and Morehead State. UNCG pushed both teams to five sets.
As SoCon play began, the Spartans topped Elon on the road and The Citadel at home. UNCG captured four of its first six league contests before losing three straight. Lysacek was able to return to action in the Spartans' battle with Davidson, but as soon as she came back, freshman Lauren Betlach underwent season-ending surgery, leaving UNCG without one of its key ball-control outside hitters.
The Spartans entered the league tournament as the fourth seed out of the North Division, earning a date with South Division champion Georgia Southern who swept UNCG in the first meeting and produced a 15-1 SoCon record. The Blue and Gold rolled in the first set, winning it 25-19, but could not hold off the Eagles as GSU secured the 3-1 victory.
Despite the season coming to an abrupt end, there is plenty of optimism heading into 2013. The Spartans return virtually every key offensive threat – including their top three hitters in Karrian Chambers, Olivia Humphries and Morgan Freeman. The trio combined for 982 kills and each hit over .200 with Freeman turning in a .255 mark. Chambers led the squad with 13 double-doubles and ended the season with a streak of seven straight matches with a double-double. Humphries ended up second on the squad with eight.
UNCG's back row play should also keep rolling right along at a high level. Junior Kellie Orewiler and freshman Katherine Santiago proved to be the Southern Conference's top libero tandem, combining for 983 digs and turning in respective averages of 4.49 and 3.77 digs per set. Orewiler eclipsed the 30-digs mark three times, tying her career best with 36 at Davidson, while Santiago produced a season-best 32 in the five-set match with American.
The Spartans will also benefit from the experience gained this season by underclassmen Vicky Harley, Kelsey Sidney and Julia Westerbur. Sidney showed her potential against The Citadel, posting 18 kills on 22 attempts with just one error for a hitting mark of .773. Westerbur excelled in the last six matches of the season, putting down 42 kills, hitting .304 and racking up 0.79 blocks per set.
Based off of their performances this season, a couple of Spartans reached the top 10 in the program single-season record books. Chambers turned in the fifth-highest kills per set average at 3.64, Lysacek produced the sixth-best assists per set mark (9.95 a/s) and Orewiler racked up 579 digs and 4.49 digs per set for eighth in both categories.
On the UNCG career chart, Chambers moved up to fifth in kills per set (3.05), Lysacek finished her career fourth in assists (3, 457) and seventh in assists per set (8.60), Orewiler rose to second in digs per set (4.32) and fourth in total digs (1,552), and Santiago moved into fourth in digs per set (3.77) after just one season.
With two new Spartans in outside hitter Jessica Brezwyn and setter Sarah Hohman set to join the fold in the fall, UNCG should have all the pieces in place to challenge for SoCon hardware in 2013.
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