Tuesday, December 2, 2014

NCAA | New Hampshire, Washington volleyball’s first opponent, promises to compete

Wildcats’ head coach among the winningest in the NCAA
  • #21 Duke vs. #23 Hawai’i | Fri, Dec 5 | 5PM | Alaska Airlines Arena
  • New Hampshire @ #3 Washington | Fri, Dec 5 | 7PM | Alaska Airlines Arena

New Hampshire setter Taylor Dunklau (3) was the America East Conference Player of the Year
-University of New Hampshire Athletic Department

With 577 career wins at USC (men), Kansas State and Washington and .767 winning percentage as a women’s head coach, Jim McLaughlin has few peers among current volleyball coaches.

Friday night, he’ll face one of those peers. Jill Hirschinger, the head coach of New Hampshire, has won 714 matches in 35 years, one of only 12 active D1 coaches to reach the 700-win plateau. (The current leader, with 1,149 wins, will also be at Alaska Airlines Arena Friday: Hawai’i’s Dave Shoji.) Hirschinger's in her 19th season at New Hampshire, and—back when she headed Ferris State (Michigan)—she gave future Utah coach Beth Launiere her first coaching job.

Hirschinger and McLaughlin have met once before, on August 30, 2003 in Madison, Wisconsin. Washington prevailed 3-0 in that nonconference meeting, with a team featuring Courtney Thompson and Sanja Tomasevic. Hirschinger has paid attention to the Huskies ever since, and was in Seattle to see Washington play Penn State in last December’s Final Four.

New Hampshire head coach Jill Hirschinger has more than 700 career wins
-University of New Hampshire Athletic Department

“They’re well-coached,” Hirschinger tells Volleyblog Seattle. “They stay in system. Jim does a really good job teaching fundamentals. They’re going to be a tough program to beat.”

At first glance, that may be an understatement. New Hampshire is 20-11 this season, with most of its victories coming against teams with RPIs above 250 (on a scale of 1 to 334). Only two of its wins have come against teams with RPIs under 200, Rhode Island (161) and Brown (198.) Now, the Wildcats fly across the country to face Washington, a team with an RPI of 4 and an NCAA seeding of 3.

“Washington is going to out-match us physically,” says Hirschinger. “They’re a lot bigger and they jump a bit higher.” New Hampshire’s outside hitters are 5-11 Tori Forrest and 6-0 Abby Brinkman. Their middles are 5-11 Demi Muses and 6-0 Cassidy Croci.

That said, Hirschinger promises her team will be competitive. She tells her players that “everybody on both sides of the net is about the same age. People have bad games or off games. We just need to stick to our game and execute and give it our best shot.”

Here, then, is Hirschinger’s capsule of what the Huskies can expect:

At the start of the season, when New Hampshire was 4-8, “we had a lot of injuries. Throughout the whole preseason, we never had the same lineup. At the end, we got all our players back, and that’s when we really started getting on a roll (winning their final 11 in a row.) We’ve had several players make America East Players of the Week who were in the lineup then, and they’re not in the lineup now.”

The Wildcats rank #33 in Division 1 with 16.81 digs/set, and hold their opponents to an impressively-low .176 hitting percentage. “My coaching philosophy is that offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. We want to be a scrappy team, and the heart of your program is in your defense. We’re led by our libero, Madison Lightfoot, a junior. She’s just done a great job for us, both serve receive and defense.”

“You win games with serve and pass. We may not have aces, but we really knock a lot of teams out of system. That’s our goal: we’re not going for an ace, we’re setting our defense up to be successful. If we can prevent them from setting their big hitter, and do something on offense that they don’t want to, then we’re a successful serving team. We’re more of a target/strategic serving team than we are an ace serving team.”

“We spread our offense around. We don’t have one player that’s dominating, a go-to player. We do different things on offense. If they’re double-blocking our middle, that opens someone else. My setter, Taylor Dunklau, is very intelligent. She can read what the other team is doing. She tries to isolate a hitter, get the one-on-one hitter the ball. She was MVP in our conference and also got setter of the year.”

New Hampshire players celebrate winning their second America East Conference title in a row
-University of New Hampshire Athletic Department

The Wildcats were dreading a long cross-country commute, which they expected to last (with connections) up to 11 hours. Yesterday, they learned that—because all commercial flights are booked—they will fly directly to Seattle on a charter. “We were jumping up and down like we won the lottery,” Hirschinger says.

And while volleyball is priority #1, Hirschinger asked her team what they’d like to do with any spare time in Seattle. “They’re goal is to go to the original Starbucks in Pike Market.”

New Hampshire Wildcats
20-11 overall, 11-1 America East Conference
Streak: won 11
RPI: 208
Previous meeting:
  • 8/30/03: Washington 3, New Hampshire 0 (30-14, 30-15, 30-17)

NCAA Appearances:
  • 2013: USC 3, New Hampshire 0 (25-9, 25-10, 25-12)
  • 2003: USC 3, New Hampshire 0 (30-17, 30-18, 30-17)
  • 2002: Minnesota 3, New Hampshire 1 (30-18, 28-30, 30-17, 30-21)
  • 1998: Arkansas 3, New Hampshire 0 (15-3, 15-0, 15-13)

2014 wins (opponent RPI)
2014 losses (opponent RPI)
3-2 Central Connecticut St (261)
3-0 Morehead St (291)
3-1 Bryant (310)
3-0 St. Francis Brooklyn (326)
3-1 Brown (198)
3-2 Rhode Island (161)
3-0 U Mass Lowell (323)
3-0 NJIT (312)
3-2 Binghamton (301)
3-0 UMBC (268)
3-1 Stony Brook (230)
3-1 Hartford (263)
3-0 UMBC (268)
3-1 Albany (273)
3-1 Binghamton (301)
3-0 U Mass Lowell (323)
3-0 Stony Brook (230)
3-0 Hartford (263)
3-1 Stony Brook (230)
3-1 Albany (273)
0-3 Connecticut (180)
1-3 Indiana (127)
0-3 Evansville (266)
1-3 Kent St (165)
0-3 St. John’s (145)
1-3 Fresno St (226)
2-3 Dartmouth (235)
1-3 Northeastern (227)
0-3 New Mexico St (132)
1-3 Harvard (76)
0-3 Albany (273)

  • Eight of Washington’s nine regulars were honored by the Pac-12 today. Krista Vansant was named Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season. Cassie Strickland was named Libero of the Year. Joining Vansant on the first team were Kaleigh Nelson and Lianna Sybeldon. Joining Strickland on Honorable Mention was Melanie Wade. Tia Scambray and Crissy Jones were named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, and Bailey Tanner was an All-Freshman Honorable Mention.
  • Vansant was also named the AVCA National Player of the Week, the third time she's won that honor during her career.
  • Washington is still reporting that Jones is day-to-day as she recovers from an ankle injured two weeks ago. The Huskies are not releasing any information about the knee Katy Beals injured Friday night at the end of the Washington State match.
  • Pepperdine reported today that Troy Tanner has resigned after one year as head women’s coach in Malibu. “While my intention was to work here for many years,” Tanner said in a press release, “changes in personal and family responsibilities make it necessary for my wife and me to return to Orange County.” Tanner is the father of Washington setter Bailey Tanner, and was the club coach (at T-Street) for Strickland, Jones, Scambray and his daughter. Tanner, an Olympic Gold Medalist and former sand volleyball coach of Olympic medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, is in the Pepperdine Hall of Fame. The Waves went 12-18 during his only year coaching the women’s program.

1 comment:

  1. Let's do this ladies, I already bought the special price tickets to the Regionals!


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