Mlemchukwu’s 19 Kills Help UMBC Volleyball Hang On for First-Ever Victory at Albany

Sophomore Krystal Mlemchukwu
Sophomore Krystal Mlemchukwu

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ALBANY, N.Y. – The UMBC volleyball team claimed each of the first two sets on the road Friday night at Albany, but was forced to play five decisive sets to earn its first-ever win on the road against the Great Danes, claiming a 3-2 victory in America East action at University Gymnasium.

"That was a real gutty win for us" said UMBC head coach Ian Blanchard.  "Albany is always a really tough place to win, we had to come from behind and steal the momentum, and we did a really good job of persevering." 

The Retrievers were previously 0-14 all-time against the Great Danes in New York.

"It was great to see the team come together when we needed it most and get the win," Blanchard said.  "I'm really proud of our team's effort tonight."

Sophomore middle Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) led the UMBC (12-7, 3-1 AE) attack with a team-best 19 kills, while senior setter Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy) returned to the lineup and dished out a season-best 56 assists. 

McIntyre kept the Retriever attack balanced all night as the visitors outhit Albany (2-14, 2-2 AE) .214-.178 with junior Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales), senior Emily Witsaman (Medina, Ohio/Medina), and sophomore Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) also in double figures for winners.  In addition, Schmidt scooped up 14 digs for her third double-double of the season.

The Retriever backline was steady all night with freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion) recording a career-best 28 digs and senior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) registering 26.

Samantha Brostrom (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) paced all hitters with 21 put-aways for Albany while setter Mikala McCauley handed out 58 assists in the losing effort.

The Retrievers started their road trip on a good note, taking the first two points of the opening set and eventually widening the gap to four at 11-7 on a Great Dane attack error.  UMBC kept up the pressure, and built the lead up to seven, 17-10, following three straight kills from Mlemchukwu.  Albany did not go quietly, however, coming all the way back to tie the set at 24-24, and again at 25-25, but another Mlemchukwu kill and a block by Witsaman and Schmidt ended the opening frame.

The two teams started the second set evenly and found themselves tied at 7-7 after a kill from Albany's Amanda Dolan.  The Retrievers answered with four straight points, the last on a Schmidt service ace, and never looked back.  The Great Danes attempted to climb back in and clipped the lead to two at 22-20, but the Black and Gold took a two sets to none advantage by claiming the final three points of the set.

Though the Retrievers held off the Great Danes in the second set, they could not hold off the hosts in the third.  Albany jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never trailed, outhitting the guests .556-.185 in the frame.  UA eventually forced a fourth set by winning the third on a service error, 25-12.

Albany continued the hot play into the fourth set, but UMBC put up a fight as both squads hit well in the frame (.438-.343).  In the end, the Great Danes' early 10-3 lead proved to be enough of a cushion as UMBC could get no closer than two at 22-20, and the teams went to a fifth set after Albany won the fourth, 25-21.

The Great Danes looked to finish off the comeback in the fifth and staked to a 6-3 lead following a UMBC setting error.  The Retrievers did not back down, though, slowly chipping away at the lead, tying the frame, and then taking the lead during a decisive 6-0 run.  Albany was able to get two points back, but in the end it was Mlemchukwu's 19th kill of the night that gave the visitors their first win at Albany, 15-12.

UMBC now heads over to Binghamton to take on the Bearcats for a Saturday afternoon match at West Gymnasium at 4:00 p.m.

Dawg Bites

-          After losing 13 straight matches to Albany dating from 2007-2012, UMBC has now claimed each of the last two meetings with the Great Danes.