UAlbany Volleyball Crushes UMBC 3-0 to Advance to Third Straight America East Title Match
DURHAM, N.H. – The 2-seed UAlbany volleyball team took down 3-seed UMBC in three sets (25-19, 25-13, 25-15) to advance to its third consecutive America East Tournament title match.
UAlbany (16-9) tallied nine blocks, eight service aces and 33 kills in the victory over UMBC (17-9) to earn a sweep in the America East semifinal round for the second straight season. UAlbany held UMBC to a .035 hitting percentage in the match.
“We came out really fast today and executed our gameplan well,” said UAlbany coach MJ Engstrom. “Our freshmen played very well, Mikala [McCauley] made great setting decisions, and our serving was excellent.”
UAlbany will play in the America East title match for the 11th time in program history, seeking its first league tournament title since 2011. The Great Danes will play the winner of UNH-Binghamton, being played at 7 p.m. tonight.
“Our blockers did really well too; we were anticipating what they were going to do, and it made it difficult for them to run their offense,” said Engstrom.
In addition, Mikala McCauley, with nine digs today, earned her 1,000th dig of her collegiate career. She adds that milestone to already having over 3,000 assists in her career.
Chloe Evering hit .269 in the match with a team-best 10 kills. Akuabata Okenwa tied a career-high eight blocks, including two solo, hitting .350 with nine kills while Laini Leindecker tallied eight kills, two aces and five digs. At libero, Nicole Otero finished with 20 digs and four service aces.
For UMBC, Zoya Trendafilova concluded with 10 kills and seven digs while Marissa Duncan and Franchesca Reed each contributed five kills.
After UMBC took the first three points of set one, an error sent Leindecker back to serve: she followed with an ace, then an Evering kill off an over to tie it up at 3-3. The teams kept exchanging points back and forth, with Leindecker and Evering kills keep pace for UAlbany. At 12-11, UAlbany survived a long rally with two huge digs, finishing with an Okenwa kill. Following a service error, Otero notched two aces off a 4-0 run to take a 17-12 lead. UMBC got to within three at 19-16, then UAlbany countered off Emily Zimmerman’s serving with a kill, three UMBC attack errors and an ace to get set point. UAlbany earned the set after a Leindecker kill to win 25-19.
Otero’s serving helped again in the second with two early aces to make it 5-2 UAlbany. UMBC got the score back to 5-5. UAlbany responded with five of the next six points to surge ahead 10-6. At 11-8, McCauley served UAlbany through a 6-0 sprint, including an ace off a UMBC timeout, putting the Great Danes up 18-9. UAlbany kept control, and with a couple more Okenwa kills, took the game 25-13 and led 2-0 in the match.
Into set three at 2-2, a service error sent back Leindecker. Leindecker, aided by an ace, two Okenwa blocks plus and kill and block by Taylor Robinson, made it seven in a row for a 9-2 advantage. Robinson and Okenwa got kills and the two sides exchanged points. A back row attack and kill on the back line by Gabrielle Hansen made it 16-8 UAlbany. UMBC made a 5-0 run to pull within three, capped with two Abbie Mirabella kills, at 16-13. A serving error ended the run, then UAlbany struck back with six straight, including two kills, to go up 22-13. An Evering kill sealed it as UAlbany won 25-15 to take the match in sweep fashion.