Freshman Trio Lead UAlbany in Kills in Defeat to Pittsburgh
STORRS, Conn. – Three freshmen had the top number of kills for UAlbany as it battled Pittsburgh, but the Great Danes fell to the Panthers 3-0 (18-25, 14-25, 15-25) in the first match of the UConn Classic.
“We tweaked our lineup to help our passing,” says coach MJ Engstrom. “That is why we put Mikala McCauley at outside; she did that position in high school, and she had a great match, and I am proud of her.”
Game one started out as a back-and-forth game. UAlbany (0-4) earned the first two points in the first game, then Pittsburgh (3-2) took the next two. Amanda Dolan took charge in the middle, earning a kill and block in succession to push the Great Danes up 4-2. Dolan then stopped a 3-0 Pittsburgh run with a kill, followed by a Lauren Spreen ace and a Tatum Jungsten block solo to go back up 7-5. Pitt went back up after a timeout with four straight points, but the Great Danes tied it back up at nine. Again Pitt went up 11-9, and against UAlbany tied it up at 11. The Panthers got the lead back on a 4-0 run. An attack error and Dolan and McCauley combo block put UAlbany back within two at 16-14, but the Panthers won six straight points for a 22-14 advantage. The Great Dames tried to fight back off kills from McCauley and Dolan to make it 22-16. A couple of late kills from Olivia Schonewise were not enough as Pittsburgh took game one 25-18.
McCauley got the Great Danes started with an outside kill then a back row strike for a quick 2-0 lead in set two. Pitt countered with a 7-1 run, leading to a UAlbany timeout. The break followed with two good attacks from Jungsten and Schonewise to get within three. Pitt’s Jessica Wynn started a 3-0 run for Pitt, which UAlbany countered with taking four of the next five points, including a Jungsten solo block. Down 15-11, a service error and a Jungsten-Schonewise combo block on a crushing attack put UAlbany within two 15-13. But Pittsburgh got some kills and won 10 of the following 11 points to win the second game 25-14 and go up 2-0 in the match.
Pitt got the early advantage in the first set, going up 4-2 early and later 9-4. After Coach Engstrom called a timeout, two straight blocks by the Great Danes, followed by a Pitt attack error, put the team back within two. Pitt went back up after a 3-0 run to lead 12-7, later leading 14-8. A hard attack and kill by McCauley got a point back as the teams went back-and-forth again. At 23-14, Spreen and McCauley saved a ball near the back line, which led to a McCauley kill for a point. But Pitt took the final two points to win 25-15 and take the match 3-0.
As a team, UAlbany finished with seven team blocks to equal Pittsburgh’s blocks.
“We had some people playing new roles, and we had a good blocking game against a good blocking team,” says Engstrom. “They are continuing to grow and get better.”
Earning her first collegiate kills, McCauley led the Great Danes with eight kills, adding seven digs. Schonewise had five kills, while Jungsten had a trio of kills and a team-best four blocks. Rebecca Rivera had a near double-double with 16 assists and nine digs.
For the Panthers, Kate Yeazel hit .545 with 13 kills and five block assists. Winn concluded with 11 kills and seven digs, while Mechael Guess had 10 kills.
Tomorrow, UAlbany will finish the UConn Classic, taking on UConn at 12:30 p.m. and Northeastern at 5 p.m. at the Gampel Pavilion.