GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG volleyball notched its first five-set victory of the 2017 season Friday night against the American Eagles inside Fleming Gymnasium (18-25, 31-29, 25-19, 21-25, 16-14) in the opening match of the Spartan Spiketacular. The Spartans dropped the first set before coming back to earn a 31-29 victory in the second set shifted the momentum in the match. The 31 points are the most scored in a single set since UNCG earned a 33-31 victory in the opening set of the 2014 season against Sacramento State. UNCG improves to 6-2 while American falls to 5-4.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the quality of win tonight.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “American is an extremely well-coached and competitive program. They’ve been Patriot League Champions for several years and we knew that they would be a great challenge for us. I’m very proud of our team’s performance tonight and the composure that we had against a very quality opponent I can’t say enough about the way we battled at the end of the second set. That really turned the tide for the match and I think if we can build on this, we can go into conference play the strongest that we can be.”
“We feel honored to have a tournament this weekend and host teams that have been displaced by the terrible storm that is about to hit Florida.” Carlin continued, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those that may be affected. But to be able to have volleyball scheduled here, in Fleming Gymnasium somewhat last minute, and all the support staff that have come together to make this happen make a victory that much more sweet.”
Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) led the Spartan offense with 22 kills. Freshman Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) played in four of the five sets, scoring 17 kills, hitting at a season-best .405 average. The Spartan offense scored 71 kills, the most in a match since UNCG tallied 72 in the 2016 Southern Conference Tournament against Western Carolina.
Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) was three off her personal best, recording 61 assists in the match. Penner added 13 digs on the defensive end. Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) notched a match-best 27 digs; with sophomore Grace Howell (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall-Heath) adding 17. Muench and senior Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) each added 10 digs as the Spartan defense recorded 90 digs. Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State) led UNCG at the net, recording a solo block and seven block assists.
The American offense started the match hot, scoring 16 kills and hit for a .424 average in the set. The Eagles and Spartans were knotted at 15 before American made a 9-1 run to take a commanding lead at 23-16. UNCG and American exchanged kills down the stretch, with Muench and Montgomery helping to cut into the Eagle lead, but American finished the match after a kill from Helana Elbaek.
The Spartans rallied from being down six points at 22-16 to take the second set and reverse the momentum of the match. UNCG used an 8-2 run to force extra points, tying the match at 24. The lead changed four times during extra points before the Spartans scored back-to-back to take the set at 31-29. A Montgomery block and a Muench kill helped UNCG take the set.
The second set was tied at 10-10 before UNCG went on an 8-1 run to take the lead at 18-11. American countered the Spartan run, doubling up on the UNCG points to cut the lead down to 23-19. A kill from Muench and a block assists from Montgomery and Muench gave the Spartans the third set at 25-19.
The UNCG offense faced a determined American foe in the fourth set, tallying its lowest hitting percentage on the night. The Blue and Gold tallied 12 kills on 47 attempts and made five errors in the set, hitting at a .149 average. The fourth set was tied at 14 all before American scored four-straight to take the lead. That run was all the Eagles needed as American was able to take the set, 25-21.
In the winner-take-all final set, the Spartans again rallied from behind to earn the win. American took an 11-7 lead before UNCG scored four of the next five to cut the lead to 12-11. The Eagles threatened again, taking a 13-12 lead before UNCG made its run. Behrends scored three kills down the stretch before a Howell service ace gave the Spartans the 16-14 victory.