GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG volleyball team ended Homecoming Weekend with a bang Saturday night, downing the Southern Conference’s second-place team in Furman 3-1 (24-26, 25-18, 25-16, 28-26) before a raucous Fleming Gymnasium crowd. With the win, the Blue and Gold moves just one game behind the Paladins for that second-place position.
“This was a fantastic win for us,” head coach Patrick Nicholas said. “It was awesome being down there in the trenches with the team as we beat a really great Furman squad. We are starting to show that mental toughness I have been looking for this year on a more consistent basis. We could have folded after giving up that big lead in the first set, but I am proud of the women for pushing through and putting together a solid performance.”
A pair of Spartan freshmen stole the show in the match as outside hitter Jessica Brezwyn (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) and setter Sara Hohman (Zionsville, Ind./Cathedral) posted their second and sixth career double-doubles respectively. Brezwyn notched career highs with 19 kills and 18 digs while Hohman dished out personal bests of 54 assists and 22 digs. Brezwyn also tallied an unofficial triple double, leading all players with 25.0 points while also hitting .311 for the match.
Senior outside hitter Karrian Chambers (College Station, Texas/A&M Consolidated) entered the contest in the third set and Furman had no answer as she racked up 18 kills on 37 attempts with just five errors to hit .351. Classmate and middle hitter Olivia Humphries capped off a memorable weekend by contributing 18 kills on 40 swings and made only six errors to finish with a .300 hitting mark.
Sophomore libero Katherine Santiago (San Juan, Puerto Rico/Colegio Adianez) anchored the back row, picking up 19 digs, while also falling just one assist shy of her first career double-double – recording nine helpers.
UNCG (13-10, 6-4 SoCon) held the upper hand on the stat sheet in most categories, including hitting percentage as the Spartans fired at a .310 clip as compared to .181 for the visitors. The Blue and Gold also tallied more kills (68-51), assists (65-45), aces (8-6) and digs (75-63) while the Paladins (11-10, 7-3 SoCon) got the better of the blocking at 10.0-6.0. The Spartans hit over .300 for the third time in league play and second time in the last three matches.
A kill by Humphries gave UNCG a quick 5-1 advantage in the opening set and the lead quickly ballooned to 12-5 as another Humphries score capped a 7-4 run. Furman drew within 15-12 when Annie Bierman dropped in a kill, but the Spartans dug down and scored three-straight points to move in front 18-12 and force a Paladin timeout.
A kill by freshman outside hitter Sydney Darden (Virginia Beach, Va./Kellam) gave UNCG a seemingly insurmountable 22-14 cushion, but Furman began to chip away. The Paladins would end the set on a 12-2 run despite two Spartan timeouts to rally all the way back and steal the frame 26-24.
It was Furman that was the aggressor in the second stanza, building a 6-2 edge after a kill by Ashton Gregory. The Spartans were able to fight back and eventually tie the score at 12 after a kill by Brezwyn finished a 10-6 run. Brezwyn went on a nice serving run from there, posting two aces and a kill as part of a 5-1 spurt which put UNCG ahead 17-13 and prompted a Paladin timeout. The Blue and Gold was not finished as an attacking error by Casey Wells and another Brezwyn ace extended the Spartan lead to six points. UNCG would not allow Furman to rally this time, closing the Paladins out 25-18 to tie the match.
Determined to seize control of the contest, the Blue and Gold built a 6-2 lead in the third frame after an attacking error by Christina Dorismund. The Spartans kept Furman at an arm’s length, forcing the Paladins to call timeout after a kill by Humphries made the score 13-6. The lead grew to as much as 18-10 after a UNCG block and the Spartans would cruise to a 25-16 victory.
The thrilling final stanza began with an attacking error by Gregory and an ace by Hohman, but Furman quickly tied things at two on a block and a kill. The teams played to an 8-8 deadlock before a kill by Chambers and an ace by Hohman sparked a 3-0 run to put UNCG in front 11-8. The Spartans led by as much as 16-13 before the Paladins made their move. An ace by Andrea Fisher tied things at 17 and the teams would trade the lead back and forth until settling for a tie at 21 points. A kill by Hohman and an ace by Humphries put the Blue and Gold on the verge of victory at 23-21, but a Furman kill and Brezwyn attacking error knotted the score once more. A kill by Humphries gave UNCG its first match point, but Chambers could not find the floor between the lines and her attacking error tied it at 24.
A kill by Fisher afforded the Paladins their first set point of the fourth, but two Spartan blocks – including a fantastic solo stuff block by redshirt sophomore middle hitter Julia Westerbur (College Station, Texas/SMU) put UNCG on the brink once more leading 26-25. A kill by Fisher kept the Paladins in it momentarily, but a kill by Chambers set up another match point and Westerbur took care of the rest – reaching high over the block and slamming the ball down to clinch the match.
Fresh off the weekend sweep, the Spartans remain at home for its next two matches. UNCG will host Western Carolina next Friday at 7 p.m. before entertaining Appalachian State Saturday also at 7 p.m.