DURHAM, N.H. – Senior right side hitter Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.) notched a team-high eight blocks and chipped in five kills as the University of New Hampshire volleyball team advances to the America East Championship game, defeating Stony Brook University 3-0 at Lundholm Gymnasium Friday night.
The set scores were 25-20, 25-23 and 25-17.
UNH advances to the championship for the first time since 2003 and fourth time in program history. The top-seed Wildcats improve to 19-12 with a 12-2 record in America East, winning its eighth–straight match. Stony Brook falls to 16-17, 9-5.
In the other semifinal match, the second-seed University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers (19-11, 9-5 America East) trumped the third-seeded University at Albany Great Danes (9-19, 9-5), 2-0 to advance to the conference championship. New Hampshire and UMBC will meet for the first-time in postseason history.
The Wildcats earned a season-high 13 blocks in the game, the most by UNH since Oct. 13, 2012 at Hartford (17).
Sophomore outside hitters Tori Forrest (Powder Spring, Ga.) and Abby Brinkman (Brecksville, Ohio) posted seven kills apiece. Junior setter Taylor Dunklau (Mukwonago, Wis.) directed the New Hampshire attack to 29 kills on 24 assists. Sophomore defensive specialist Madison Lightfoot (Clarkston, Mich.) scooped up 16 digs to hinder SBU to a .042 hitting percentage. Forrest tallied her third straight double figure dig effort with 11.
The Wildcats were able to capture set one 25-20 on the strength of nine kills and four blocks.
Each side contested the lead in the opening set as the score was built up at nine all. New Hampshire tallied four consecutive points to pull ahead 13-9, capped off by back-to-back aces from Dunklau. The 'Cats were able to extend their lead 18-11, aided by a pair of blocks. The Seawolves attempted to come back as SBU cut New Hampshire's lead down to three at 20-17. However, the Wildcats closed out the frame on a 5-3 run to take the first set, 25-20.
New Hampshire kept the pressure on, capturing the highly contested set 25-23 on 11 kills and five blocks. Tolliver earned four total blocks (three block solos) while striking down three kills. Brinkman also tallied three kills in the stanza.
UNH jetted out to a 6-0 lead but squandered the start as the Seawolves stormed back to knot the frame at nine all. Stony Brook and New Hampshire would continue to trade points as the score stood at 20-20. UNH would be able to carve out a two-point edge powered by a Tolliver block and a Brinkman kill, forcing a timeout from SBU. After conceding the ensuing point, SBU would come out of the stoppage with back-to-back kills to pull within one, 23-22. The defense at the net would be the deciding factor in set two as the 'Cats thwarted back-to-back attack attempts to take a 2-0 lead.
Despite trailing to start the third frame 5-0, New Hampshire would cap off its 12th three-set victory this season with a 25-17 victory. Brinkman led the way offensively with four kills on a .333 hitting percentage. Freshman middle blocker Demi Muses (Orangevale, Calif.) made her presence felt in the middle of the net to rack up four blocks and three kills.
New Hampshire would rally back to even the score at nine early in the third set. Stony Brook could not create any separation, as UNH would remain even with SBU at 15-15. The Wildcats would capture five of the next six points to compel the Seawolves to take a timeout. Despite the stoppage, the 'Cats remained relentless on both sides of the net to force match point at 24-17. The tandem of Dunklau and Muses rejected the SBU strike to give UNH the decisive point and its first trip to the conference championship since 2003.
The Retrievers and Wildcats will meet for the first time in America East Championship history on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. The winner of the conference championship will receive an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament. For the latest news about UNH volleyball, please visit UNHWildcats.com.