New York City -- The UMBC Volleyball team continued its best start in 10 seasons by winning two matches in the Lion Invitational on Friday to improve to 9-3.
The Retrievers swept host Columbia (25-20, 25-20, 29-27) before beating Providence in four sets (25-17, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21) just an hour later. UMBC now has won seven of its last eight matches.
"We played steadier in the morning match vs Columbia, a little up and down in the afternoon match," Head Coach Ian Blanchard said. "But the best quality about this team is their refusal to give in to their opponents No matter the score, our confidence remains high and the team remains positive that they can respond with good plays."
And so far, they usually have. Freshman Brooke Hayden (Mt. Airy, Md./Linganore) was the most efficient member of the UMBC offense against Columbia in the first match.
The left-handed outside hitter finished with 12 kills and zero errors en route to a blistering .545 hitting percentage. Hayden also contributed on the defensive end, adding eight digs and three blocks.
Junior Abbie Mirabella once again led the team in kills (15), while Zoya Trendafilova (Sofia, Bulgaria/Elisaveta Bagryana) and Emily Panchak (Wilmington, Del./Concord/Wichita State) also provided offense with 10 and eight kills, respectively. Sophomore setter Claudia Lopez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico/Academia Maria Reina) had a double-double, finishing with 39 assists and 10 digs.
Reigning America East Defensive Specialist of the Week Kristin Watson (Bowie, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) continued to thrive in her new role as libero. The sophomore contributed 22 digs and seven assists in just her fourth career start at the position.
The Retrievers handled Columbia (2-5) in the first two sets, but it was the third and final set that proved to be an epic. The Lions led the bulk of the set, eventually serving while up 24-20, but Hayden would lay down three consecutive kills before an error tied the score at 24.
UMBC would then fight off two more set points, six total in the set, before a Mirabella kill, an error and a block from Lopez and Panchak gave UMBC the dramatic 29-27 set win to complete the sweep.
Several Retrievers set career highs in the match against the Friars (9-3).
Mirabella tied hers in kills with 26 in only four sets, as she hit .467 and added eight digs and two blocks on defense.
Watson once again anchored the defense, contributing a career-best 28 digs, while Trendafilova finished with 11 kills and eight digs. Hayden was force on defense as well, tallying her career best with 16 digs to pair with her seven kills.
Lopez once again had a strong showing at setter, finishing with 49 kills overall, a season high.
The Retrievers now will have a week off before opening America East conference play next Friday at 7 p.m., when they welcome Stony Brook to The RAC.