December 1, 2013

Volleyball Treks To No. 6 Southern California For NCAA Championship First Round Matchup

INDIANAPOLIS – The University of New Hampshire volleyball team will travel to play sixth-ranked University of Southern California Women of Troy in a Dec. 5 (10:30 p.m.) first round game of the 2013 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the NCAA announced Sunday night.

UNH (20-12 overall, 12-2 America East) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the 2013 America East Championship with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-17) victory against Stony Brook University in a Nov. 22 semifinal and 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-19, 15-9) win vs. University Maryland, Baltimore County in the Nov. 23 championship match at UNH's Lundholm Gymnasium.

This will be the Wildcats' fourth tournament appearance and the first since 2003. The 'Cats advanced to the NCAA's in 1998, 2002 and 2003. 

The winner of the New Hampshire vs. USC first round game will play the winner of the Colorado State University and California State University, Northridge on Friday, Dec. 6 at 10 p.m.

The last time New Hampshire and Southern California met was back on Dec. 5, 2003 when UNH was last in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats were defeated by the Women of Troy 3-0 (17-30, 18-30, 17-30) and would go on to win the national title with an undefeated 35-0 record that season. 

UNH, under the guidance of 18th-year head coach Jill Hirschinger, enters the tournament with a nine-game winning streak, during which it has captured 27 out of the last 33 sets. Furthermore, New Hampshire has captured six straight-set matches in the nine-game span.

The Wildcats were honored as America East Coaching Staff of the Year for the fourth time in program history, all under Hirschinger, this season. 

The Wildcats are led by senior right side hitters and co-captains Morgan Thatcher (Brockton, Mass.) and Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.). Named the America East Player of the Year this season, Thatcher is a two-time conference First Team selection who averaged 3.07 kills per set. Tolliver, an America East Second Team mention, paced the conference in blocks per set with a 1.11 average.

Joining Thatcher on the America East First Team, sophomore outside hitter Tori Forrest (Powder Springs, Ga.) paced the team in kills (346) and double-doubles (11). Junior setter Taylor Dunklau (Mukwonago, Wis.) joined Tolliver on the all-conference Second Team. Dunklau orchestrated the Wildcat offense to a conference-best .203 hitting percentage on the strength of 9.67 assists per set. New Hampshire also placed Demi Muses (Orangevale, Calif.) on the all-rookie team. 

USC enters the NCAAs with a 26-5 overall record that included 16-4 in the PAC-12. Making its 23rd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, Southern California will host first and second round matches for the 11th-straight season.

"Playing in December is always a dream of a coach and here we are," said Hirschinger. "It was really fun to watch the telecast with the team. Seeing every time a team was named we kept looking for us and when UNH was finally selected, we just erupted."

UNH IN THE NCAA VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

1998 1st round at #13 Arkansas 3-0 loss (3-15, 0-15, 13-15)
2002 1st round at #10 Minnesota 3-1 loss (18-30, 28-30, 17-30, 21-30)
2003 1st round at #1 Southern California 3-0 loss (17-30, 18-30, 17-30)

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