BALTIMORE – UMBC senior middle blocker Emily Witsaman (Medina, Ohio/Medina) returned to action for the first time since early October 2012 and recorded six kills on seven swings to lead UMBC past Towson in three sets (27-25, 25-18, 25-16), Tuesday evening at the RAC Arena.
"It was a really well put together match for us tonight," said head coach Ian Blanchard. "We had very evenly distributed setting and a lot of people were strong offensively all night.
"It was great to see Emily come off injury for her first match of the season and I don't think it could have gone any better."
Senior setter Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy) spread the ball around all night for UMBC (4-4), recording 31 assists as the Retrievers hit .389 as a team. Senior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) and junior Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales) paced the Retriever attack with eight kills apiece. Goc also scooped up seven digs while freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion) once again led the Retriever backline, registering eight digs.
Victoria Williams led all hitters with 13 kills, but UMBC limited Towson (3-6) to .177 hitting and out-dug the Tigers 26-23.
The visitors jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in the opening set, taking advantage of three errors and a service ace from Kelsey Polak. The Retrievers responded quickly, though, and won four of the next five points, the last on a kill from Schmidt, to pull even at 6-6. Back-to-back three point runs from each team saw them level again at 9-9 and neither side could separate from the other until late. With UMBC up 20-18, Towson came out of a timeout and looked poised to claim the first frame by winning six of seven points to take the lead and earn set point at 24-21. The Retrievers were not rattled, however, and staved off the match points and rallied, winning the set on an attack error, 27-25.
In the second set, Towson won three of the opening four points, but never led again as UMBC claimed the lead with five straight, the last on a Griffith ace, for a 6-3 lead. Back-to-back Tiger points pulled them within one, but the hosts went on another run to build a seven-point advantage, 13-6, behind the serving of McIntyre and senior Robbin Lee (Olney, Md./Sherwood). Towson stayed in the set and closed the gap to two at 14-12, however, team-play helped UMBC salt away the set (25-18) and go into halftime up two sets to none.
Looking to close out the match, the Black and Gold came out firing and kills from Witsaman and McIntyre gave the hosts a 5-1 lead. Towson could only pull within two the rest of the set and a late 10-2 gave the Retrievers the cushion they needed as Witsaman punctuated her return with one final kill as UMBC won the third set 25-16.
UMBC now hosts the Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament this coming weekend at the RAC Arena. The Retrievers host St. Francis (Pa.) and NJIT on Friday before facing Coppin State on Saturday.
- With the win, UMBC snaps Towson's four-game winning streak in the series and cuts the Tigers' lead to 38-33-1 in the all-time series.
- Witsaman hit .857 for the match. Her last match played was on Oct. 5, 2012.
- McIntyre recorded a UMBC season-best five service aces in the match.