MJ Engstrom Becomes UAlbany Volleyball’s All-Time DI Wins Leader after Doubleheader Sweep in West Point
WEST POINT, N.Y. – With the UAlbany volleyball team earning four-set victories over UConn (25-15, 20-25, 25-19, 25-23) and St. John’s (25-23, 25-20, 14-25, 25-13) on the first day of the Army Invitational, head coach MJ Engstrom now has 143 victories at the helm of the Great Danes to be the winningest coach in the program’s DI history.
In addition, UAlbany (5-6) goes into Saturday’s contest vs. Army West Point at 5 p.m. on a three-match winning streak.
“We served UConn and St. John’s aggressively, and that helped keep them out of their offense,” said Engstrom. “We passed well for most of the sets. Overall, we are learning to adjust to what our opponents are doing, and that is real progress.”
Engstrom passed Kelly Sheffield’s mark of 142 victories with the two wins today.
Laini Leindecker led UAlbany with 26 kills and 28 digs, notching double-doubles in each match played. Amanda Dolan hit .419 with 19 kills, just one attack error, and 13 total blocks while Nicole Otero had 39 digs, eight assists and six service aces at libero. UAlbany aced St. John’s 12 times, totaling 15 on the day.
For UConn (7-2), Kayla Williams hit .380 with 26 kills and 15 digs against UAlbany, each team-highs. Hayley Cmajdalka tallied seven kills, four digs and two blocks.
Against UAlbany, three St. John’s (8-3) players had double digit kills, led by Gaia Traballi’s 14, adding three blocks. Erica Di Maulo had a double0double with 43 assists and 13 digs.
UAlbany started the first set winning four of the first five, capped by a Chloe Evering kill, to lead 4-1. After UConn pulled to within one, Leindecker notched a kill to send Mikala McCauley back to serve. Aided by two Chloe Lamb kills, McCauley served through a 4-0 run for a 10-5 UAlbany lead. UAlbany kept the advantage and used another 3-0 run off Gabrielle Hansen’s serving to go up 17-10. The Great Danes did not give up back-to-back points the rest of the way as kills from Leindecker, Akuabata Okenwa, Lamb and McCauley led UAlbany to a 25-15 victory in set one.
The second set began back and forth when at 4-3 UAlbany, UConn got four of the next five points on kills to lead 7-5. UAlbany pulled to within one with an Okenwa kill. UConn responded with three kills to start a 5-0 run to lead 14-8. Connecituct continued to get kills and increased its lead to nine at 19-10. Down 21-13, UAlbany’s front row started to earn kills as the Great Danes won five of six, including three kills and a block, to pull within four at 22-18. That is as close as UAlbany would get, falling in set two 25-20 as the match evened up at 1-1.
Into the third, an Evering-Dolan combo block sent Nina Holmes back to serve. Holmes pushed UAlbany through a 4-0 run for a 5-2 advantage. Later on Hansen’s serving, Dolan and McCauley combined to block two UConn attacks to send UAlbany up 8-3, later at 11-4. After some back and forth, three Evering kills helped UAlbany keep the lead as a UConn error made it 20-13. The Huskies rallied with three Kayla Williams kills, pulling to within three at 21-18. UAlbany held and took four of the last five, ending on an Otero ace, to win set three 25-19 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
UConn got an early 4-2 lead in the fourth game, when an Evering kill and a UConn error tied it at 4-4. Down 7-6, a McCauley dump kill, a Dolan ace and UConn error sent UAlbany ahead 9-7, later leading 12-9 after kills from Okenwa and Leindecker. UConn got six of the next seven, including an Emma Turner ace, to go ahead 15-13. UAlbany tied it back up using kills from Dolan and Leindecker at 16-16, later going back ahead 18-17 off an Okenwa kill. Again the lead was exchanged to UConn, then UAlbany countered with four kills in five points, including two from Okenwa, to push in front 22-20. Again UConn tied the set at 22, and again UAlbany went ahead to set up match point at 24-22. After UConn defended once, Evering delivered the final kill to give UAlbany a 25-23 set win and 3-1 match victory.
Into the second match, an Evering kill sent Otero back to serve. Otero led the Great Danes through a 6-0 run to make it 7-2 UAlbany. St. John’s got the next five points to tie up the set at seven, then after a Lamb kill, received four more for an 11-8 lead. With kills from Hansen and Lamb, UAlbany pulled back to within one at 14-13. St. John’s went on a 4-0 run off Alexandria Lobdell’s serving to go up 18-13. Down 20-15, a Dolan kill, Hansen ace, a Leindecker kill, a second Dolan kill and a second Hansen ace made it a tie set at 20-20. After a St. John’s kill, Leindecker hit a kill to send back Emily Zimmerman, who notched an ace to put UAlbany ahead. St. John’s evened it up, then McCauley got a dump kill and an ace to set up game point. At 24-23, Leindecker buried the ball for the kill to give UAlbany the 25-23 comeback victory in set one.
At 4-2 St. John’s in the second, UAlbany rolled off a 4-0 run, capped by two Otero service aces, to lead 6-4. With more strong serving from Hansen and Dolan, UAlbany built its lead to 15-9. The Red Storm got four back to get to 15-13. UAlbany held its lead with kills from Leindecker and Evering, then got ahead by four on a Dolan block and Leindecker kill to set the score at 20-16. St. John’s got back to within two a couple of times, but Leindecker kept notching kills to keep UAlbany ahead. Another Leindecker kill sparked a game-ending 3-0 run to give UAlbany the set 25-20 and a 2-0 match lead.
UAlbany jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the third with kills from three different players. At 5-3, Trabelli got five kills in a 6-0 St. John’s streak for a 9-5 Red Storm led. UAlbany took advantage of a couple of St. John’s attack errors, but the Red Storm built its lead to 16-9. Leindecker got some kills and blocks later but UAlbany could not bridge the gap, falling in set three 25-14 but keeping the match lead 2-1.
Into the fourth set, Dolan notched a kill and a block as UAlbany led 8-4 early with four of five points won. St. John’s got to within one as the sides exchanged kills back and forth. At 11-10, UAlbany let St. John’s hit three attack errors, the final by a combo block by Taylor Robinson and Lamb, for a 14-10 advantage. After a St. John’s timeout and point, Evering got a kill. Otero returned to serving and blazed through a 6-0 run, aided by three Dolan kills, for a 20-11 advantage. Dolan added a block and a kill later to help seal the set 25-13 for the 3-1 victory and doubleheader sweep.