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Kennedy and Spaay Set Career Highs, Retrievers Survive Providence to Gain Playoff Berth
Allie Spaay had a career-high 67 assists
Providence, R.I. – Senior Iman Kennedy (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) had 21 kills and classmate Allie Spaay (Kenosha, Wis./Kenosha Tremper) recorded 67 assists as each set career highs to help the UMBC volleyball team survive Providence in five sets Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall. The win is the first five set win for the Retrievers this season, earning the victory with set scores of 24-26, 25-19, 25-27, 25-20, 15-4.
With the win over the Friars, the Retrievers (16-11, 6-6 America East) have won four straight and earn a spot in next weekend’s America East Championships to be held at Albany.
“For the better part of the last three weeks we’ve been in a must-win situation,” said head coach Ian Blanchard. “We’ve won four straight and look where we are now.”
Playing in their final regular season contest for UMBC, Kennedy and Spaay came up big to complete the UMBC comeback and extend the Retrievers’ season. Kennedy’s 21 kills topped her previous mark of 17, set last year against Binghamton and equaled this season against Stony Brook. Meanwhile, Spaay’s 67 assists smashed her previous high of 55, set back in 2009 against Long Island.
Over her four year career, Spaay has registered 50 or more assists in five contests, with two of them coming this season. The senior also picked up 10 digs today to complete her 14th double-double of the season.
Freshman Dalton Tolliver (Ortonville, Mich./Notre Dame Prep), last week’s America East Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week, had 18 kills on .500 hitting to register double-digit kills for the fourth straight contest and ninth time in her last 11 matches. Classmate Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales) was in double-digit kills for the 12th this season, finishing the five set contest with 13 kills.
The contest started inauspiciously for the Retrievers who were looking to wrap up a spot in the conference tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Providence (8-22, 2-10 America East) jumped out to an early 9-4 lead on Senior Day in Rhode Island. The Retrievers were able to claw back into the set though behind four kills by Kennedy and three by Tolliver to steal the lead at 17-16. The squads then traded points until the Friars got back-to-back points on a kill by Lauren Fletcher and a solo block by Shelagh Dolan to take the first set 26-24.
UMBC came out strong in the second set claiming a 3-2 lead and never looked back. The Retrievers hit .536 for the set, led by five kills by sophomore Emily Vandergrift (Leesburg, Va./Loudoun County).
The third set was a back and forth affair as neither team claimed a lead larger than four and the two squads were tied 11 times. UMBC had a chance to claim the set at 25-24, but the Friars ran off three straight points to take it 27-25.
The fourth set was nearly a carbon copy of the second set as the Retrievers staked out to an early lead and never let the Friars back in. Spaay picked up 13 assists during the set and both Kennedy and Tolliver recorded four kills to push the contest to the brink.
Coming into the contest with a 0-5 mark in five set matches, the Retrievers were not fazed by the pressure this time. Sophomore Hallie Carter (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison) put UMBC up 2-0 with a service ace, and then the Retrievers went on a 6-2 run to take control. The Retrievers ended the match on a 7-2 stretch to put away the fifth set 15-4 and clinch the spot in the America East Championships.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Blanchard exclaimed. “In one of the most difficult situations of the year, they responded in the best possible way.”
The Retrievers had a huge day defensively with three players recording double-digit digs with Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada/R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate) leading the way with 19 and Carter picking up 17.
UMBC now heads to upstate New York to take on tournament host and regular season champion Albany. The Great Danes swept the season series with the Retrievers, stealing a 3-2 win in Baltimore before winning the rematch 3-0 in Albany.