It's been a long journey for UNH women's volleyball, but this young team is definitely getting somewhere. From a pre-season tour of Europe to a trip to the NCAA Tournament in Minnesota, the 13 members of this year's team have traveled far and worked hard. In the process, they've won not only games and titles, but the respect and support of increasing numbers of fans.
Just seven years ago, the team ended its first season as a varsity sport with a dismal record of 6-26. This year, it brought home a record of 23-11, won its second America East Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Getting to the tournament "was a perfect ending to four years," says senior co-captain Lauren Knight. "We all wanted it for each other."
While the UNH women lost in the first round of the tournament, they did win one of their four games against Minnesota--a team they had never faced before. This was the first tournament win by an America East team since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams six years ago.
"What made this year special was that we really played as a team," says head coach Jill Hirschinger. She notes that the pre-season trip to Europe, where the team spent nine days sightseeing and competing in Prague, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, helped the players to become closer. Says Knight, "We were like 13 best friends."
Hirschinger expects the team to make it to the NCAA Tournament again next year, and this time she wants to advance. "We're not happy just to be there," she says. "We want to go farther."
With three outstanding new recruits and six seniors returning to the team next year, Hirschinger says, "We're just going to get stronger. Next year's the year." ~
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