Volleyball Set for Strong 2012 Campaign

Senior Setter Jansan Falcusan

DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire volleyball team, which opened conference play last season by winning seven of eight matches en route to a second-place finish, is coming off a remarkable turnaround season. The Wildcats ripped through the league slate and qualified for their second America East Tournament appearance in the last three years. Now, equipped with four standout upperclassmen, eight returnees and a promising group of newcomers, all signs point to continued success this season. Head coach Jill Hirschinger, who returns for her 17th season at the helm, fields a talented roster including a pair of all-conference second team selections in Jansan Falcusan and Morgan Thatcher as the team makes a run toward a fourth league title.

Outside Hitters/Right-Side Hitters: Junior right-side hitter Morgan Thatcher (Brockton, Mass.) is coming off a breakout campaign and should continue to be a powerful force for the Wildcats up front. Thatcher, named one of the team's tri-captains following an all-conference campaign, racked up 289 kills for 2.56 kills per set and notched double-digit kills 17 times during the season. Joining Thatcher will be a group of four freshmen, consisting of outside hitters Abigail Brinkman (Brecksville, Ohio), Victoria Forrest (Powder Springs, Ga.), Elizabeth Kennerly (Westlake, Calif.) and Margaret Kenney (Merrimack, N.H.). Brinkman was a two-time all-conference selection, including first team as a senior, and helped her team to a pair of State Final Four appearances. Forrest, a two-time 5-A All-Area Player of the Year, set school records for single-season kills, career kills and single-season serve receive percentage. Kennerly was a former All-Tournament player as a junior, while Kenney earned All-State First Team honors as a senior. A local product, Kenney was also the runner-up for the Gatorade Player of the Year award.

Middle Blockers: UNH will turn to junior Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.) and sophomore Delaney Dameron (Alpharetta, Ga.) to provide a strong presence in the middle this season. Tolliver, coming off an all-rookie team selection as a freshman, fought through injuries during the second half of the season and still managed to post 79 kills and 135 digs. Dameron recorded 26 kills, 23 blocks and an impressive .243 attack percentage in 10 matches. Joining the duo in the middle will be freshmen Brenna Buckwalter (Evergreen, Colo.) and Cassidy Croci (Sylvania, Ohio). Buckwalter earned All-Conference First-Team honors during her junior year at Evergreen Senior High School. Croci was named to the OHSVCA Division I All-Ohio First Team and was also selected as both the District 7 and Three Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Senior DS Jessie Schnepp

Setters: Returning as a team captain and the starting setter is senior Jansan Falcusan (Plymouth, Mich.), who is coming off an impressive 2011 season after two years of waiting in the wings as the backup. Falcusan ranked fifth in the America East with 8.71 assists per set and second in conference matches with 10.46 assists per set, helping her earn a spot on the America East All-Conference Second-Team. Throughout the season, Falcusan recorded 10 double-doubles on the season including a 62-assist, 12-dig performance. Sophomore Taylor Dunklau (Mukowonago, Wis.) will serve as the backup setter this fall after logging some valuable playing time last year. Dunklau recorded 111 assists and 3.47 assists per set in 32 sets played during her rookie season.

Defensive Specialists: Senior Jessie Schnepp (East Longmeadow, Mass.), who will serve as a team captain, is back to provide solid defense on the back line this season. A forceful server with plenty of experience, Schnepp led the team with 28 service aces last fall and also ranked third with 2.41 digs per set. Sophomore Sam Henke (Millersville, Md.) took over as the team's libero midway through her rookie campaign and is primed for an even stronger season with one year of experience under her belt. Henke enjoyed a standout freshman season as she led the team with 365 digs, which ranked fifth in the conference, and ranked second with 25 service aces. Sophomore Katie Sattora (Avon, N.Y.) returns after appearing in 23 matches in 43 sets as a freshman. Sattora was a solid contributor off the bench for the Wildcats, playing in the final 10 matches down the stretch and logged 24 kills during the year. The defensive trio is joined by freshman Madison Lightfoot (Clarkston, Mich.), who was named to the All-Region First Team last year. Lightfoot is a four-time league champion out of Clarkston High School, while fellow freshman Forrest will also see some time as a defensive specialist this season.

Schedule: New Hampshire will kick off the 2012 campaign on Friday, Aug. 24 at the Villanova Classic. UNH will take on the host lineup as well as Maryland and Robert Morris in the two-day invite on the campus of Villanova University. The Wildcats then open up home action on Tuesday, Aug. 28 when they welcome Northeastern to Lundholm Gymnasium for a single non-conference match.

From there, UNH heads back out on the road (Aug. 31- Sept. 1) to take part in the Rutgers Invitational with Iona and Rhode Island before returning home to take on top-level competition at the annual Holly Young Invitational. New Hampshire opens the Holly Young Invite with Patriot League opponent Holy Cross (Sept. 7 – 7 p.m.) before facing Central Connecticut State (Sept. 8 – 12:30 p.m.) and William & Mary (Sept. 8 – 7 p.m.). The 'Cats will then travel to Smithfield, R.I. for a non-conference matchup at Bryant on Tuesday, Sept. 11, followed by a trip to Washington D.C. for the George Washington Invitational. UNH will face off against the host Colonials as well as Princeton and BYU over the weekend (Sept. 14-15).

The Wildcats then kick off a three-match homestand when they take on Harvard on Tuesday, Sept. 18. New Hampshire opens America East Conference play on Saturday, Sept. 22 when it hosts Providence at 2:00 p.m. before wrapping up non-conference action against intrastate rival Dartmouth on Sept. 23. After two straight road matches to round out September, the 'Cats host Stony Brook on Friday, Oct. 5 for the first of six matches in the month of October. UNH ends the regular season with three matches in November, capped off with a home tilt against reigning conference champion Albany on Sunday, Nov. 11.

The Wildcats will look to earn a spot in the four-team America East tournament slated for Nov. 16-17 at the site of the highest seed.

Overall, UNH will play seven teams in the top half of the RPI, including four in the top 100 (BYU – 57, Northeastern – 76, Albany – 85, Villanova – 100, George Washington – 116, Princeton – 155, Dartmouth – 160). The Wildcats have won three America East Tournament titles (1998, 2002, 2003) and earned three NCAA appearances in school history, all of which have come under Coach Hirschinger.

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