ATHENS, Ga. – UNCG volleyball’s season came to a close as it fell to UCF 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-22) in the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship on Tuesday evening at the Ramsey Center. The Spartans conclude the year at 19-12 while the Knights improve to 20-13 and advance to the second round of the NIVC.
“I think UCF did a really good job capitalizing on a few plays," said UNCG head coach Corey Carlin. “They played a little cleaner in the second and third sets. We had opportunities. I think it took us a little bit to get into the flow of the match, but when we did it was very competitive. I’m just really thankful for this opportunity with the administration of UNCG supporting us going to this new NIVC Tournament. Any time you get to play past Thanksgiving it’s a special thing, and this team definitely earned it. We thank the NIVC staff for inviting us to participate. Overall it was a good experience, especially for the returners for next season.”
Senior middle hitter Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis, Ind./Illinois State) registered a team-high eight kills at a .200 average. Freshman outside hitter Maria Esch (Williamsburg, Va./Jamestown) had seven kills, and redshirt-sophomore Rebecca Rice (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville) had the highest team average in the match of .250 on six kills.
Senior outside hitter Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Oragne) had five kills, eight digs and two assists. Muench finished her decorated career with 1,540 kills and 1,008 digs and ranks second in program history in career kills.
“I’m just really proud of our seniors,” said Carlin. “This class has a special place in my heart because they came into the program with me. To see this program continue to grow and raise the bar every year they’ve been here is awesome. I’m very appreciative of these ladies.”
Junior setter Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) had a match-high 27 assists, six digs and three kills. She ended the 2017 campaign with 1,246 assists, moving her to sixth in most season assists by a Spartan ahead of Tanya Edmunds’ 1,240 in 1989.
Junior defensive specialist Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) finished with a match-high 12 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Grace Howell(Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall-Health) had 7 digs, and senior defensive specialist Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) contributed six digs.
The Knights recorded just one more kill (37-36) in the match but had 15 less attacking errors (14-29) on only three more team blocks (8-5).
UCF jumped out to a 7-1 lead to begin the first set and then had a 4-0 run for a 12-4 advantage. UNCG managed to cut its deficit down to three points by claiming seven of the next nine points. The Knights closed the set by winning five of the last seven points.
The Spartans had 11 attacking errors in the set, and all four reception errors of the match and two of the three service errors also occurred in the set.
UNCG claimed an early lead in the second set by winning seven of the first 10 points. Esch, Muench and sophomore middle hitter Lauren Robeck (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) all contributed kills while Howell also had a service ace. UCF gained the lead for good on a 6-0 run that made it 13-10. The Knights’ lead wavered between one and two points before they ended the set on a 6-0 run.
The Knights got the first lead of the third set on a 4-1 run to make it 7-4. The Spartans acquired their first lead of the set on a 3-1 run with kills by Rice and Muench and a service ace by Muench as well. UCF used a 4-0 run to go ahead 22-19, but UNCG tied it up by winning the next three points on three kills by Rice. The Knights won the following three points on a kill and two attacking errors from the Spartans to win the match.