Volleyball Rallies Past UMBC, 3-2, To Win America East Title; Dunklau Named MOP

DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire volleyball team, led by Most Outstanding Player Taylor Dunklau (Mukwonago, Wis.), rallied to defeat University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 3-2, and capture the 2013 America East Championship title Saturday afternoon at Lundholm Gym.

UNH, the tournament top seed by virtue of a 12-2 America East record, improved to 12-1 at home this season and 20-12 overall to win its first conference tournament title since 2003. UMBC, the second seed with a 9-5 conference mark, ends the season at 19-12.

Dunklau recorded 50 assists to direct UNH to a .249 hitting percentage. The junior setter was also credited with three service aces, eight digs and three blocks.

The Wildcats earn its fourth America East Tournament title to earn an automatic bid for the upcoming NCAA Division I Tournament. Head coach Jill Hirschinger also earns her fourth championship title, all with UNH.Hirschinger tallies her seventh 20-win season and first since 2003.

Senior right side hitters Morgan Thatcher (Brockton, Mass.) and Destiny Tolliver (Rochester, Mich.), both of whom joined Dunklau on the All-Championship Team, led the 'Cat attack. Thatcher finished with 22 kills -- the highest in an America East title match since 2005, on a .442 hitting percentage. Tolliver had 14 kills on a .480 hitting clip, and she also matched a personal best 10 blocks to register her second career double-double. Sophomore defensive specialist Madison Lightfoot (Clarkston, Mich.) anchored the backline with 25 digs to curb UMBC's offense to a .181 hitting percentage.

As the match was tied at two apiece entering the deciding set, New Hampshire jolted out to a 5-0 lead under the direction of Dunklau. UNH maintained its five-point advantage as UMBC called a timeout at the midway point of the set. As the score stood at 11-7, New Hampshire was able to close out the decisive set on a 4-2 run highlighted by a pair of service aces from Demi Muses (Orangevale, Calif.). 

Down 2-1, entering the fourth set, New Hampshire managed to level the match score on the strength of six kills, four block assists and a .750 hitting percentage from Tolliver.

New Hampshire jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the fourth frame. The Wildcats stretched out its lead as UMBC called time with the score at 14-7. UMBC was able to get its offense producing again. However, the 'Cats were able to trade points to continue raising their point tally. The Retrievers crept back in the frame as a service ace cut the lead down to 24-19. Dunklau was able to dish the ball to Tori Forrest (Powder Springs, Ga.) who struck down the set point.

UMBC edged out the New Hampshire in the third set by a two-point margin of 25-23, despite a seven-kill effort from Thatcher. 

The Retrievers opened the stanza on an 8-4 run, powered by five kills and two service aces. New Hampshire stormed back in the set to take eight of next 13 points to trail 13-12. Ensuing a Retrievers' timeout, each side would exchange the lead to raise the score at 20 all. New Hampshire capitalized on two hitting errors to lead 22-20 as UMBC burned a timeout. The Retrievers would rally in the set 25-23, capturing five of the final six points.

UNH tied the match at one to take the second frame 25-16 as Forrest led the offense with five kills on a .357 hitting percentage. Lightfoot notched 10 digs to hinder the Retrievers to a .182 clip. 

New Hampshire began the set with a slight 7-6 edge. The Wildcats would create separation by generating a 10-2 run to open a 17-8 lead. UMBC would not mount a comeback as UNH would tally 16 kills in the set on a .317 hitting percentage to earn a set two victory, 25-17.

The Retrievers took set one in an offensive showcase with a score of 25-22. Both sides struck above a .300 hitting percentage with 14 kills on each side. Thatcher recorded eight of her 22 kills while hitting at a .636 clip. 

UMBC opened the scoring on a 7-2 run in the first set. After an early UNH timeout, the 'Cats clawed back to trail by two at 10-8. The Retrievers would pull away again to lead 16-9. Opting to use its second timeout, New Hampshire would cut the UMBC lead to two again, trailing 21-19. After the second Retrievers timeout, UMBC was able to capture the last four points to earn the set one victory.

The Wildcats will find out who their opponent will be in the 2013 NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 9:30 p.m. The selection show will be televised on ESPNU. For the latest news about UNH volleyball, be sure to log onto UNHWildcats.com.

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