UMBC Volleyball Rallies, but Falls Short vs. Delaware in Five-Set Thriller

Senior Ali Goc
Senior Ali Goc

BALTIMORE – The UMBC volleyball team rallied from two sets down to force a decisive fifth set, but Delaware held on to the defeat the Retrievers, Friday afternoon at Loyola (Md.) University's Reitz Arena on the opening day of the Radisson Cross Keys Greyhound Challenge.  The Blue Hens defeated the Retrievers, 3-2, in five sets (25-17, 25-19, 17-25, 29-31, 15-12).

"The girls gave a tremendous effort, but came up a bit short," said head coach Ian Blanchard.  "I am encouraged by our competitiveness and the mistakes we made are correctable."

Sophomore middle Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) led the way for UMBC (1-4) with a season-high 16 kills while senior hitter Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) added 13 winners and sophomore hitter Sherelle Walker (New Fredom, Pa./Susquehannock) chipped in 11 put-aways. 

Freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion) once again paced the Retriever backline, scooping up a career-best 25 digs in the losing effort.  Goc earned her first double-double of the year with 18 digs.

"We dug a hole for ourselves early in the match, not from a lack of effort or intensity, but more from a lack of execution," Blanchard said.  "As we mature as a team we will improve our execution."

Katie Hillman led all hitters with 28 kills and notched a double-double by registering 11 digs.  Katie Hank (11), Megan Blunden (10), and Chandler Bryant (10) were also in double figures for kills for Delaware (1-3) who earned its first win of the season.

The Blue Hens outhit the Retrievers .184-.155 in the match and picked up one more dig (85-84), but UMBC denied one more block than UD (14.5-13.5).

Delaware looked poised to cruise to an easy victory in the opening set, winning the first eight points, courtesy of four Retriever hitting errors.  UMBC recovered, though, and chipped away at the lead, cutting the margin to three at 13-10 on a kill by Mlemchukwu.  Delaware did not let the Retrievers get any closer, however, and won the final four points for a 25-17 opening frame win.

The Blue Hens carried the momentum into the second period, turning an early 2-2 tie into a 10-4 lead.  UD's advantage grew to eight on two occasions, the second one at 22-14, before UMBC ran off four straight to trim the lead to 22-18.  Delaware held off the late charge though, to take a two sets to none lead by winning the set 25-19.

UMBC would not go away and put up a fight in the third as the teams went back-and-forth in the early going.  After Delaware knotted the set at 6-6, the Retrievers won eight of the next ten points, the last on a kill from Goc.  UMBC built the lead to a set-high nine points at 23-14, and then closed it out to force a fourth set on an ace from junior Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales).

In the fourth, the Retrievers continued their run from the previous set gaining a 4-1 lead on a kill by Walker.  Delaware's quick rally leveled the set at 6-6 and the teams could barely separate themselves the rest of the way.  The Hens five-point run to gain a 20-15 lead looked to prove decisive, but UMBC staved off six match points and eventually gained their own set point at 28-27 on a setting error.  The Retrievers were held at bay, however, until back-to-back Mlemchukwu kills gave the Black and Gold a 31-29 win and sent the match to a decisive fifth set.

The even play continued in the early going of the fifth set and sophomore Kristin Cooper (Davidsonville, Md./South River) pulled UMBC even with Delaware at 7-7.  Four out of the next five points went to the Blue Hens, though, and they held on for the victory by closing out the match with a 15-12 win.

UMBC returns to Reitz Arena on Saturday for a doubleheader to close out the weekend.  The Retrievers take on tournament host Loyola (Md.) at 2:00 p.m. and then face LaSalle at 4:30 p.m.


-          Delaware has now won four straight meetings between the teams and leads the all-time series 26-8.

-          Goc's 13 kills are her most since tallying 15 against Hartford on Oct. 10, 2010.

-          Griffith's 25 digs are the most by a Retriever in a single match since Ali Loynachan scooped up 28 at New Hampshire on Oct. 28, 2012.

-          This was UMBC's first five-set match of the season.  Last season, the Retrievers were 1-6 in matches that went the distance.