Washington, D.C.—The UMBC volleyball team picked up a huge 3-1 win over Howard on Friday. The Retrievers end their non-conference portion of the schedule at 6-7.
Errors were the theme in the opening stanza. UMBC jumped ahead 4-1 early, thanks in large part to a couple of Howard attack errors. The Bison would fight back, going on a 4-1 run to tie to take a 5-4 lead. Redshirt junior Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) was the key offensively in the first. Mlemchukwu laid down a huge kill to give the Retrievers a 7-5 lead.
Each team exchanged points midway through, but it was a Bison ace that forced Coach Blanchard to call a timeout. Mlemchukwu struck again, this time on defense. The junior had a pair of key blocks to tie the match at 16 all. Trailing 23-21 late, the Retrievers rallied, coming back from down two to win the set 25-21.
The Retrievers would come out of the gates swinging in the second, taking a 3-0 lead. UMBC would extend the lead to 6-3, before the Bison made a comeback. Howard went on a 7-1 run, forcing a Retriever timeout. That run would extend to 13-1, forcing Coach Blanchard to use his second timeout trailing 16-7. Retrievers would fight back, cutting the deficit to just five, at 23-18 thanks to a Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) block. The junior also laid down a kill, forcing the Bison on their heels. However, it was not enough as Howard held on to win set two 25-20.
The third stanza saw neither team gain an advantage early. Each team had turns with the lead, before the other would tie it up. Sophomore Zoya Trendafilova (Sofia, Bulgaria/Elisaveta Bagryana) laid down a winner to give the Retrievers a slim 7-6 lead. UMBC would push the lead to 11-9, forcing Howard to call a timeout. Howard would answer, pushing the Retrievers and taking back the lead at 16-14 forcing a timeout.
"Zoya really stepped up for us today," said Blanchard. "She served and hit well for us tonight."
The seesaw action would continue, as the Retrievers force a Bison timeout with the match tied at 21 all. Late in the set, a huge block by Walker and junior Paige Miller (Reading, Pa./Schuylkill Valley) gave UMBC set point. An error by the Bison would give the Retrievers the set, 25-23 and the lead 2-1 in the match.
Leading 2-1, the Retrievers and Bison would go back and forth early in the fourth. A nice tip block by Trendafilova gave UMBC a slim 7-6 lead, but the Bison answered with a kill of their own. Howard would pull ahead after a trio of kills gave them a 13-10 lead. Back and forth the two sides battled before a pair of Bison attack errors gave UMBC a 22-21 lead late. UMBC would fight all the way back and take set four 25-21 and the match 3-1.
UMBC was led by Mlemchukwu, who laid down 17 winners in the match. Not far behind her was Walker with ten kill. Sherelle also had three blocks for Retrievers.
"This is a great team win for us," Blanchard stated. "We played better defense, and we are taking the right steps to continue improving."
UMBC returns to the court in their America East openers against Stony Brook (7:00 p.m.) and Hartford (1:00 p.m.) next weekend, October 3 and 5.