Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 03:09
James Richardson / The Mirror
UNC freshman setter Allie Hutcheson (2) prepares to set during the Bears’ win against Montana Thursday. Hutcheson had her first career start against the Griz, taking place of senior Marissa Hughes, whom head coach Lyndsey Oates said might be back for Saturday’s match against Montana State.
Senior leadership and team chemistry helped the UNC women’s volleyball team start off conference play with a bang, beating Montana 3-1 (24-26, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18) Thursday at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
With senior setter Marissa Hughes out of the lineup, it was up to freshman Allie Hutcheson to coordinate the Bears’ (8-2, 1-0 Big Sky) offense and she was up to the challenge against a scrappy Montana (2-8, 0-1) team. This was Hutcheson’s first start, but not the first time she had to come in to relieve Hughes. Hutcheson played in the second and third sets when the team swept North Dakota State University Sept. 1.
Hutcheson had 39 assists, nine kills and 13 digs for a total of 10 points against Montana.
“I thought Allie did a great job tonight,” head coach Lyndsey Oates said. “She was composed, she was competitive, she played athletic and by the end of the match she was setting very well. I could see a whole different comfort level in her by the end of the match.”
After a slow start, in the first set, Hutcheson settled in and led the Bears to win the final three sets. The longer Hutcheson was on the floor, the more efficient the Bears offense became. In the first set, the Bears’ team attack was 47 percent and in the fourth, the team attack jumped to an astounding 73 percent.
Hutcheson said she didn’t feel the added pressure of starting UNC’s first conference match and treated it like any other match.
“I’m used to the role of setter and pressure comes with the role,” Hutcheson said. “We were all feeding of each other, and once everyone came together it was a big deal for us.”
Senior outside hitter Kelley Arnold had her fourth double-double of the season against the Grizzlies with 20 kills, 11 digs and 4 blocks, accounting for 23 of the Bears’ 73 points.
“I think tonight it just kind of clicked for me,” Arnold said. “I was in the flow and whatever came my way I just wanted to put down.”
Arnold seems to be a recurring nightmare for the Grizzlies. Last season, during the Oct. 22 match against Montana, Arnold recorded 16 kills, which put her over the 1,000 career kills mark. Arnold’s total kill tally currently sits at 1,233. Arnold is now only 31 kills shy of Kenzie Shreeve for the No. 1 spot in the Bears’ Division I history.
“We love Kelley in a Bears’ uniform, and we don’t want to see her on the other side of the net,” Oates said. “She was dominate tonight, and they didn’t have an answer for her. When we needed a kill, we set Kelley Arnold. Everyone in the gym knew it was going to her, and they still couldn’t stop her. She hits high, hard and has every shot in the book.”
The defending Big Sky Conference Champions look to extend their conference record to 2-0 as the Bears host Montana State (7-2, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.