Milford’s Hembrow helps turn Husson volleyball program around in first year

One season down and Hannah Hembrow has already made a name for herself at Husson University in Bangor, Maine.

The freshman from Milford earned plenty of playing time and league honors on the Eagles way to a North Atlantic Conference final four appearance.

The 5-foot-8 setter/right side hitter took the court in all 30 matches (92 sets), finishing with 500 assists, 213 digs and 58 kills.

It’s been a successful season personally and for the team, which ended its season with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-19) NAC semifinal loss to Colby-Sawyer on Nov. 4 at top-seeded Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine.

According to Hembrow,
there are high hopes for the Eagles (15-15 overall, 5-2 NAC) moving forward.

"There has been a lot of
talk about next year, and our expectations for it," Hembrow said. "We want to win. Coach Taylor (Roland-Buohl) has an unbelievable drive to change this program around and I know that, together, we can do it.

"It started with changing the mentality of the team this year. It took some time, but together we understood the desire to win as a team. Next year, we will install a new mentality and team norms to the freshmen, who will understand this drive immediately."

Hembrow is actually looking forward to molding players that come after her. As a freshman, she’s ready to take on a leadership role.

"We are all very excited to bring in recruits within the next month, after Thanksgiving break," Hembrow said. "We have high expectations, and begin training for the upcoming seasons with team lifts and open gyms starting very soon."

Hembrow is also ready for the intesity level to be turned up by her coaches.

"Just recently, in a meeting with Coach Taylor and Coach Kayla (Eversgerd), I asked what to expect with the years to come. Coach Taylor told me that each year it is going to get more and more intense. I asked her ‘So my senior year?’ She replied saying ‘You won’t be able to walk after the first week of preseason.’

"I admire her ambition and drive to change this program and make us the best players we can be. I am so grateful that she and Coach Kayla are here. They have personally transformed me into a stronger player, and have turned this team around in one season."

The Eagles were 9-21 in 2015. A pair of new coaches and the addition of Hembrow turned things around dramatically.

Hembrow, who earned NAC Rookie of the Week honors during the season and closed things out as an All-Conference first teamer, knew she’d have a chance to get playing time, but she worked hard at her craft to to take on a starting role.

Determined to beat out four other freshman for the starting position, she hired a personal trainer – former Souhegan lacrosse star and professional women’s lacrosse player McKinley Curro. It paid off.

The former Milford High School star had 13 games of 20 or more assists, including three of 30 or more. Her season- and career-high was 35 in a 3-2 (20-25, 29-31, 25-20, 25-22, 15-10) come-from-behind win over Bryn Mawr (Pa.) College on Sept. 9. It’s a match she’ll never forget.

"We were missing two key hitters, which resulted in our defensive specialists playing in the front row," Hembrow said of the five-set win over Bryn Mawr at the Smith College Invitational. "The game started at 8 p.m., and two losses on our side. We ended up winning the next set, and the next, which required us to go to a fifth game – which we won as well. We came back from two tough losses in a row and pushed through to win the next three. By the time the game ended it was past 11 p.m. I had never been so happy to win a game."

Her first seven collegiate matches, including that win over Bryn Mawr, she was an assist machine. She recorded 16 assists in her first match, a 3-0 win over Unity College, then posted 20 or more assists in the next six matches – 22 vs. Maine-Fort Kent (3-1 loss), 26 vs. Maine-Presque Isle (3-0 win), 23 vs. Michigan-Dearborn (3-0 loss), 28 vs. Maine-Machias (3-0 win), 32 at Maine-Machias (3-0 win) and 35 vs. Bryn Mawr.

She was just as strong down the stretch and into the conference tournament, when she delivered a match-high 28 assists in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-17) NAC quarterfinal win over Maine-Presque Isle on Oct. 29.

The Eagles season would come to an end six days later in a 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-19) semifinals loss to Colby-Sawyer.

"We started the season with a completely new set of coaches," Hembrow said. "As a team, we were learning the expectations of our coaches while trying to learn how to work together. Everything was so new, and returners weren’t used to the new coaching style. For a while things were hectic and a lot was happening; we couldn’t find our rhythm. After injuries and people leaving the team, we slowly worked everything out and all the obstacles that were present beginning of the season were gone. We found our rhythm and flourished as a team because we persevered.

"We are a fresh team, and won’t be losing any players for next year."

Notes

Worcester State University trivia question: Who scored the first point for the women’s basketball team in their new gymnasium? Answer: Hollis’ Brianna Hackett. The 5-foot-6 junior guard drained a 3-pointer two minutes into Worcester State’s first game in Lancer Gymnasium on Tuesday night. Those were the only three points Hackett would score as the Lancers rolled to a 63-24 season-opening win over Mount Holyoke.

Amherst native Quinn Carroll supplied the game-winning assist in overtime to lift the Plymouth State University men’s hockey team to a 6-5 triumph over Salem State on Saturday. The win improved the Panthers to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in MASCAC play.

The Novice Eight from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute rowing team was named WPI Male Student-Athlete of the Week for the week ending Oct. 16. Included in that group is Hollis’ Brandon Fox. The team won its race with a time of 14:00.421, nearly 50 seconds ahead of second place Wentworth (14:50.096).