Mikala McCauley Earns 3000th Career Assist as UAlbany Volleyball Sweeps Hartford
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Seeing Mikala McCauley earn her 3,000th assist, the UAlbany volleyball team swept Hartford (25-23, 25-21, 25-11) to secure a spot in the America East Tournament on Friday night.
UAlbany (13-7, 7-1 AE) came back in each of the first two sets and dominated set three over Hartford (5-16, 2-6 AE) to earn a season sweep over the Hawks. As a team, UAlbany hit .248 and earned 14 blocks, holding Hartford to a .065 hitting percentage.
“We told the team that Hartford was much improved and it would be a battle tonight, and the first two sets lived up to that,” said UAlbany coach MJ Engstrom. “We held firm and stayed aggressive, keeping our nose to the grindstone when Hartford was leading in the first two sets; during the break, we talked about coming out aggressive and focused, and for the most part, that is what we did.”
With the victory, UAlbany has earned a berth into the America East Tournament for the 15th consecutive season.
McCauley earned her 3,000th assist on a kill to Akuabata Okenwa in the third set. McCauley is the fourth player in UAlbany history, and third in the Division I era, to earn over 3,000 assists.
“After last weekend, we focused our skills in practice this week, and it really showed off tonight in our first three-set conference win of the season,” said McCauley. “I’m very proud of the way we came together tonight.”
“Kudos to Mikala for hitting the 3,000-assist milestone tonight,” said Engstrom. “The freshmen, Chloe Evering and Akuabata Okenwa, did well tonight, and Dominique Fisher got it her first collegiate match and made the most of it.”
Chloe Evering earned a team-best 11 kills, hitting .435 with two blocks. Okenwa notched nine kills and five blocks while Laini Leindecker got 10 kills and eight digs. McCauley finished with a double-double of 28 assists, 14 digs, four blocks and two kills.
For Hartford, Jenna Bridges concluded with 10 kills and four blocks. Paulina Modestow had six kills, three aces and 10 digs.
Down one point in the first, UAlbany earned the next three points, including a Gabrielle Hansen ace, to lead 8-6, adding kills from Leindecker and Taylor Robinson to lead 10-7. Four straight Hartford kills gave the Hawks an 11-10 lead. Down 13-11, an Okenwa kill sparked a 3-0 UAlbany run to take back the advantage at 14-13. Again, Hartford got back the lead at 16-14, and UAlbany tied it back up. Both sides went back and forth until at 20-20, Hartford got the next two to go up 22-20, inducing UAlbany to call a timeout. UAlbany responded with three straight, capped by an Okenwa-Robinson combo block to finish a long rally, to go ahead 23-22. Hartford tied the set up, then Okenwa pushed a kill to the back row to set up set point. Nicole Otero notched an ace untouched in front of the diving Hartford player to win the set for UAlbany 25-23.
Hartford got off to a 4-1 start in the second set. UAlbany got back to within one off a couple of kills and a block from Evering, then pulled ahead with an Evering kill sparking a 5-0 run, including a kill and block by Dolan and a strike to the floor on the second touch by McCauley, to lead 9-6. Hartford responded with six in a row, including four kills, to go up 12-9. After a timeout, kills from Okenwa and Robinson helped UAlbany pull to within one, with Hartford keeping a small lead for a while. An Evering kill and Dolan-Leindecker combo block tied the set at 19-19. At 21-20, McCauley earned a dump kill and went back to serve, setting up Leindecker for a kill off the block, then a Modestow error forced a Hartford timeout. Robinson took command with two powerful kills off blocks in the middle to seal the set off the 5-0 run. UAlbany won set two 25-21 to go up 2-0 in the match.
Two Okenwa kills helped UAlbany start up 3-1 in the third set. Each side exchanged a couple of pairs of points, when at 5-5, UAlbany surged ahead with five straight off Nina Holmes’s serving for a 10-5 advantage, later going up 12-6. UAlbany kept winning pairs of points to Hartford’s one as the front row kept notching kills. At 14-8, Leindecker earned a kill, then UAlbany blocked two Hartford attacks in a row. Leindecker added another kill, then two more blocks from Okenwa made it 20-8, capping a 6-0 run. McCauley notched her 3,000th assist with a kill by Okenwa to make it 22-10. Dominique Fisher entered late and earned her first block and kill to help seal the set as UAlbany won game three 25-11 and take the match in three.
UAlbany’s next match is also on the road as the Great Danes take on UMass Lowell on Sunday, October 30th at 1 p.m.