Volleyball Heads to Fifth-Straight America East Tournament to Face Binghamton
Senior Katie Kelly
BALTIMORE – The No. 3-seeded UMBC volleyball team takes on the No. 2-seed Binghamton Bearcats on Friday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. in the America East Championships, hosted by the University at Albany. In the previous four trips to the conference tournament, the Retrievers have advanced to the championship match twice – in 2006 and 2010 – falling to Albany on both occasions. Also, in both instances, UMBC defeated the Bearcats in the semifinals.
Scouting the Retrievers
UMBC (15-14, 8-4 AE) advanced to its fifth-consecutive conference tournament by winning each of its final three regular season matches, including its finale, on the road at Stony Brook last Friday. The Retrievers were able to hold off the Seawolves behind 16 kills from sophomore Hannah Schmidt. Freshmen Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) and Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) were also in double figures for the Retrievers. Junior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) paced the back line with a match-high 17 digs.
The 8-4 record in conference play is a two-game improvement over last year’s mark when UMBC bowed out in the conference semifinals as the No. 4-seed to eventual champions, Albany. The 2012 squad started out sluggishly, dropping its first two America East contests, but rebounded to win eight of its final ten.
UMBC split with both Binghamton and Albany this year, with the win over the Great Danes marking the first victory since 2007. Out of the three other teams in the conference tournament, New Hampshire is the only team to sweep the Retrievers this season, winning in five sets in both meetings.
The Retrievers are led by America East Co-Setter of the Year Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary’s Academy) who recovered from an early season injury to tie for the league lead, averaging 9.81 assists per set. The junior completed the regular season with a career-high 677 assists and scooped up 131 digs while recording four double-doubles.
Heading into the conference tournament, Schmidt posted the most kills for the Black and Gold, finishing with 294 winners. Walker and Mlemchukwu, each of whom was named to the All-Conference Second Team, as well as the All-Rookie squad, provided plenty of support, however, both ranking in the top-ten in the conference for hitting percentage. Walker also ranked sixth in the league with a 3.15 kills per set average.
The defense has been an integral part of the Retrievers’ success as well, as UMBC leads the America East with a 2.21 blocks per set average. Equaling her prowess on the attack, Mlemchukwu led the Retrievers with 92 total blocks, 86 of which were block assists, the seventh-highest total in school history for a single season.
On the back line, Goc registered a team-best 387 digs this season and now has 1,010 for her career which places the junior tenth all-time on the school list. Schmidt, along with junior Hallie Carter (Huntington Beach, Calif/Edison) and senior Ali Loynachan (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair), combined to give plenty of coverage, as each recorded over 200 digs. For her accomplishments, Loynachan was named to the America East All-Conference Second Team.
Scouting the Bearcats
Binghamton returns to the America East tournament after missing the championships in 2011. Led by America East Coach of the Year Glenn Kiriyama, the Bearcats went 11-17 overall during the regular season, but matched the Retrievers with an 8-4 mark in conference play, and earned the No. 2-seed by way of a tie-breaker.
The Bearcats are led on the court by Co-Setter of the Year Amanda Dettmann who matched McIntyre with a 9.81 assists per set average. For the year, the sophomore dished out 1,099 assists, nearly 40-percent of which when to senior Iva Partaleva, a second team selection, who led the squad with 402 kills. Kristin Hovie also received a bulk of the sets, finishing the regular season with 334 winners.
Binghamton is strong up the middle with Grace Vickers earning a spot on the All-Conference First Team, the Bearcats only representative, and Alex Roland landing on the Second Team. The pair combined for 176 total blocks this season.
Binghamton leads the all-time series with UMBC 14-10, while also claiming 13 of the 20 meetings in America East play. At one point in the series, the Bearcats won 12 of 13 meetings, but the Retrievers are now on a run of seven victories in the last nine contests between the two schools. UMBC also holds a 2-1 advantage in matches played during the America East Championships, all of which have been semifinal contests.
This season, the two teams split the two regular season contests, each winning on its home court. Binghamton took the conference season-opener in straight sets behind 16 kills from Hovie. The Retrievers answered back with a four-set victory at the RAC Arena with Schmidt and senior Katie Kelly (Diamond Bar, Calif/Diamond Bar) each recording career-highs in kills.