November 15, 2013

Witsaman’s 13 Kills Push UMBC to Three-Set Sweep of Providence, Into America East Tournament

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – UMBC senior middle Emily Witsaman (Medina, Ohio/Medina) powered down a match-high 13 kills and classmate Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy) dished out 38 assists as the UMBC  volleyball team swept Providence (25-21, 25-21, 25-12), Friday night in America East action at Alumni Hall.

"Offensively we had a nice all-around performance and I thought we played a complete set in the third," said head coach Ian Blanchard.  "Our middles were especially good and Ali Goc had a great all-around match.

"I'm really proud of our team's effort as Providence is always a tough place to play."

UMBC (18-10, 9-4 AE) hit .360 for the match with McIntyre setting up six different Retrievers along the way.  Sophomore middle Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) was also in double figures for the Black and Gold, sending down ten kills.

The Retriever defense was stout as well, limiting Providence (12-19, 4-9 AE) to .131 hitting, and not allowing a single Friar to record double-digit kills.  Freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion) paced the UMBC back line with 13 digs while senior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) and junior Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales) each picked up ten.  Goc barely missed out on her 14th double-double of the season by registering nine kills.

The opening stages of the first set were tight as neither team could pull away with UMBC only claiming a 6-4 lead on a kill by Schmidt.  After Providence pulled level at 7-7, the visitors took firm control of the frame with seven straight points behind Griffith's serving.  The Friars initially chipped away at the lead, and then went on a run to take the lead, 21-20, on a winner by Kayla Johnson.  The Retrievers regrouped immediately, however, and grabbed the final five points of the set, the last on a put-away from Goc.

In the second frame, UMBC made the first move, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead courtesy of two Mlemchukwu kills, a service ace, and a Providence attack error.  The lead was short-lived, though, as the hosts rattled off five straight to retake the lead, 8-6.  The teams played even from there until the hosts broke a 16-16 tie with four consecutive points for a 20-16 lead.  UMBC again rallied late, reversing the lead with a 9-1 run, with Goc once again putting down the winner for a 25-21 set win.

Out of the break, UMBC jumped out to a 4-1 lead, built it to 6-2, then 9-3, and finally 14-4 before Providence won back-to-back points.  From there the Retrievers took care of business with junior Tanaeri Santiago (Bayamon, Puerto Rico/American Military Academy) setting up match point with a kill and a Providence error ending the match with UMBC taking the third set, 25-12.

"It feels great to know we're going to our sixth straight America East Tournament." Blanchard said. "The team has battled this season and it's a testament to the athletes' perseverance and hard work."

UMBC now wraps up its 2013 regular season with a Sunday afternoon match at Hartford.  The Retrievers and Hawks are scheduled to take the court in West Hartford, Conn. at 1:00 p.m.   

Dawg Bites

-          UMBC's nine wins in conference play are the most for the program since joining the America East in 2003.

-          The Retrievers improve to 11-2 all-time against the Friars with a perfect 8-0 mark in conference play.