Riding a Six-Match Win Streak, UMBC Volleyball Heads to West Virginia for the Gold and Blue Players Challenge

Head Coach Ian Blanchard
Head Coach Ian Blanchard

BALTIMORE – Riding a six-match win streak, the UMBC volleyball team travels to West Virginia this weekend for the Gold and Blue Players Challenge hosted by West Virginia University. The Retrievers play a doubleheader on Saturday, Sept. 21st, first facing against Liberty at 1:00 p.m. and then Georgetown at 5:00 p.m.  On Sunday, UMBC takes the court against the host Mountaineers with the match scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at WVU Coliseum.


Scouting the Retrievers


Last weekend, the Retrievers defeated St. Francis (Pa.), NJIT and Coppin State in straight sets at the Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament to improve their record to 7-4 on the season. Senior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) led the way for UMBC with 24 kills and 31 digs and was the Tournament MVP, while classmate Emily Witsaman (Medina, Ohio/Medina) was selected to the All- Tournament Team.


Witsaman was named the America East Player of the Week upon making her comeback last Tuesday against Towson after nearly a year off the court due to injury. Witsman paced the Retriever attack during the four contests, sending down team- best 34 kills on .549 hitting. The senior was also dominant at the net, turning away 13 total blocks for a 1.18 blocks per set average in the Retrievers' four wins.

Senior Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy) continues to guide the UMBC attack and earned her second conference Setter of the Week mention after dishing out 133 assists last week. McIntyre has helped the Retrievers to a league-best .222 hitting efficiency for the season, and paces all America East setters with a 9.72 assists per set average.


On the back line, freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, PA./Upper Merion) was in double figures for digs for the ninth time in 11 contests this season against Coppin State, picking up 11 digs on Saturday.  For the year, Griffith has scooped up 158 digs and is third in the conference, averaging 4.05 digs per set.


Scouting the Flames


Liberty has lost its last six contests to fall to 1-9 this season after getting swept by Duke, South Carolina, and Utah State last weekend at the Duke Invitational.  The Flames' only win this season came back on Sept. 3 when they defeated Georgetown in four sets in their only home match so far this season.


Last weekend in Durham, N.C., the Lady Flames were led by redshirt senior Kendle Rollins who was named to the All-Tournament squad after hitting .323 and adding a team-high 10 blocks.  For the year, Rollins has sent down 52 winners on .303 hitting.  Senior Lillie Happel leads the Liberty squad with 73 kills this season while junior Gabrielle Shipe has picked up a team-best 120 digs.


All-Time Series

The former Big South rivals have met 27 times since 1977 with UMBC holding an 18-9 advantage over Liberty.  Two of the contests came in conference tournament play with the Flames sweeping the Retrievers in three sets in 1992, but UMBC returning the favor with a four-set win in 1994.


Liberty and UMBC have not faced each other on the volleyball court since Sept. 11, 1999 when the Retrievers won in five sets.


Scouting the Hoyas


Georgetown (6-5) picked up two wins last weekend at the Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville, Fla., defeating Western Michigan and Iona after dropping the opener to tournament host Florida.


Sophomore Lauren Saar has racked up a team-high 136 kills, adding 151 digs and 17 blocks, and junior Alex Johnson has totaled 122 kills and 123 digs on the season.  Junior Dani White, a preseason All-BIG EAST honoree, has added 118 kills, 34 digs and 10 service aces for the Hoyas.


All-Time Series


The Hoyas lead the all-time series with the Retrievers, 17-5, and earned the last victory in the series, winning in five sets in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 21, 2010.  Hallie Carter (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison) scooped up 26 digs in the loss while Sabrina Hoeks tallied a double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs.


Scouting the Mountaineers


West Virginia is off to its best start in program history with a 10-1 record, with their only loss this season coming this past Tuesday at Duquesne. The Mountaineers rank ninth nationally, averaging 2.80 blocks per set, and are led by sophomore Caleah Wells (1.32 blocks per set).


Freshman Jordan Anderson leads the WVU attack with 3.97 kills per set and 0.32 aces per set, while sophomore Anna Panagiotakopoulos is collecting a team-best 4.38 digs per set. Sophomore setter Brittany Sample sits third in the Big 12 with a 10.86 assists per set average.


All-Time Series


UMBC and West Virginia have met eight times on the volleyball court with the Mountaineers sweeping the last contest in 2008 at the WVU Volleyball Classic to claim a 7-1 lead in the series.  West Virginia also won the first matchup, a 2-0 victory, on Oct. 5, 1979 in Princeton, N.J.