UAlbany Volleyball Battles National Power USC, Edged in Four
LOS ANGELES – The UAlbany volleyball team gave a good battle against perennial power USC in Los Angeles on Saturday, but the Great Danes fell in four (16-25, 25-23, 21-25, 18-25) to the Women of Troy.
UAlbany (0-3) rallied back to take the second set and even the match against USC (3-0), which is just outside the top-25 in the AVCA rankings. UAlbany kept close for most of the third set, but USC took that and the following games to win the match.
“We told the team to concentrate on the little things, not focusing on the score or who was across the net,” said UAlbany head coach MJ Engstrom. “Aqua [Okenwa] played great all weekend; Kelly [Cameron] came in against Michigan and did a great job the rest of the weekend. Our two freshman starters, Danielle Tedesco and Tatiana Tiangco, were calm and poised against some nationally ranked teams. Overall, we learned a ton this trip, and are eager to get back in the gym next week to work on getting better.”
The Women of Troy were the champions of the USC/LMU Tournament with a 3-0 record.
For USC, Khalia Lanier notched 16 kills and six digs. Niki Withers hit .474 for 11 kills, three digs and two blocks.
Despite two kills from Okenwa for UAlbany, USC used six kills to begin up 7-2. At 9-4, USC got the next four points off Nikki Leonard’s serving to lead by nine. Tatiana Tiangco ended the run with a kill, then after a USC kill, notched a kill and a block to pull UAlbany within seven at 14-7. UAlbany started to go back and forth with USC, including a back row kill by Gabrielle Hansen, as UAlbany trailed 19-12. A USC 3-0 run was countered by a Great Dane 3-0 run, but UAlbany did not get closer and fell in set one 25-16.
UAlbany started out in front in the second set, using kills from Okenwa and Hansen to lead 4-2. Down 5-4, UAlbany won the next three off USC error, one aided by a Taylor Robinson solo block, to be up 7-5. USC came back to tie, and again UAlbany went back in front off two Tiangco kills. Tiangco used a kill and an ace to again put the Great Danes up 14-12, later 16-14 off a Robinson kill. After USC tied it up, an Alyse Ford ace put the home team up 19-18. USC committed a service error, then Kelly Cameron’s serving led to a pair of kills from Danielle Tedesco and Tiangco on the first touch over to give UAlbany a 21-19 advantage, later at 22-20 with a kill from Tedesco. USC tied it up, using a block, at 22-22, leading to UAlbany calling a timeout. After an exchange of points, Okenwa and Robinson combined for the block next to the antenna to set up game point, then Chloe Evering delivered the set-winning kill to give UAlbany a 25-23 win and even up the match at 1-1.
Into set three, UAlbany took an early 4-3 advantage off a couple of USC errors, then after a USC kill, Cameron and Evering notched kills to make it 6-4 Great Danes. USC responded with seven points won in the following nine, including two kills from Brittany Welsh, to go up 11-8. Okenwa buried a kill to end the run, then an Evering-Tedesco kill pulled UAlbany within one at 11-10. Back and forth the teams battled, with UAlbany countering USC points with kills and blocks. Down two, Tedesco and Okenwa delivered kills to the corner to tie the game at 16-16. The exchanges continued until at 18-18, three kills and an ace for USC gave the home team a 22-18 advantage. Despite kills from Okenwa and Robinson, UAlbany could not recover and fell 25-21 in the set.
On set four, UAlbany built an early lead on a 3-0 run with three kills from different players to lead 5-3. Evering added another kill later to make it 8-5 UAlbany. USC took the next three to tie it up, then after a service error, won three more off three Ford kills to make it 11-9 Women of Troy. UAlbany returned to within one, but three more USC kills gave it a 14-10 lead. Following some back and forth, UAlbany pushed for three straight points, including an Evering kill, to pull within one at 17-16. An exchange of points was followed by a 6-0 run by USC to set up match point. USC took the set 25-18 to win the match in four.
UAlbany will now prepare for its own tournament, the Desmond Hotel Invitational. Its first match is against St. Johns on Friday, September 1st at 7:30 p.m. at the University Gym.