Stony Brook, NY -- Sophomore libero Kristin Watson (Bowie, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) nearly broke a program record with 38 digs as the UMBC Volleyball team (14-5, 5-2) rallied from two sets down and stunned host Stony Brook (17-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22, 15-9) on Friday night in Long Island.
The victory was the Retrievers' first win at Stony Brook since November, 2012 and moved UMBC to within a half game of first place in the America East.
"This was our biggest win of the season thus far. The team understood what was at stake," said Head Coach Ian Blanchard. "Kristin Watson played out of her mind, she carried us. She has obviously had several big games for us this season, but none bigger than tonight. She refused to give in and inspired her teammates with her tenacity and ferocious competitiveness."
Watson, who had the second-highest amount of digs in the rally-score era on this night, also tied a career high with seven assists in the comeback.
Senior outside hitter Zoya Trendafilova (Sofia, Bulgaria/Elisaveta Bagryana) led all players with 16 kills (.209), while fellow outside hitter Abbie Mirabella (Hockessin, Del./St. Mark's) nearly had a double-double, finishing with nine kills (.250) and 10 digs.
"Zoya stepped up big, and though Abbie got off to slow start for the match, her competitiveness prevailed. She and Zoya came up with big time swings in the fourth and fifth sets." said Blanchard.
The freshman middle blocker duo of Emily Panchak (Wilmington, Del./Concord/Wichita State) and Franchesca Reed (Aurora, Col./Grand View) had huge games on the defensive end, finishing with four and five blocks, respectively. On offense, Panchak added 10 kills (.286), four digs and an ace while Reed tallied five kills and four digs of her own.
Ashley Ramos (Orlando, Fla./Liberty/Monroe JC) continued her strong play since returning to the starting lineup, finishing with 12 kills, five digs, three aces and two blocks.
Reigning America East Setter of the Week Claudia Lopez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico/Academia Maria Reina) finished with 35 assists, while fellow setter Krytsia Negron (San Juan, Puerto Rico/Colegio Adianez) added 10 helpers in her first conference action of the season.
Stony Brook (6-16, 2-5) started off on fire, hitting .344 in the first set and then holding UMBC to just a .062 hitting percentage in the second set to go up, 2-0.
The Seawolves would lead by as much as four in the third set, and held a late 22-20 advantage before UMBC ended the set on a 6-2 run to stave off the sweep.
Stony Brook jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead in the fourth set, but once again, the Retrievers battled back and eventually tied the set at 15. A Ramos kill followed by a Mirabella ace gave UMBC a late 22-20 advantage that they would not relinquish en route to a 25-22 set win.
The fifth set started tight, but a Ramos kill tied the match at four and UMBC led 8-5 as the teams switched sides. Panchak then combined on a block with Lopez and added a kill, followed by two Trendafilova kills and a Lopez ace that gave UMBC a 13-8 edge.
A Reed solo block and an attack error would then seal the Retriever victory.
"We did not play our best volleyball in the first couple of sets, but we continued to work hard and knew that if we could just play a little more consistently that eventually our steadiness would help us win the match. I am just so proud of this team." said Blanchard.
UMBC will travel to Washington on Wednesday for its final non-conference match of the season, at George Washington. First serve is slated for 7 p.m.