Princess Anne, Md. -- The UMBC volleyball team swept two matches for the second straight day and won the Hawks Hullabaloo Holiday Tournament on Saturday at UMES. In addition, the two wins moved the Retrievers to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2007.
UMBC came from behind for a five-set win against Weber State in its first match, scoring a 25-21, 19-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-11 victory. The Retrievers had an easier time in the second match. rolling to a 25-11, 26-24, 25-11 sweep of UMES.
Junior Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) was a big force on offense, hitting .395 with 20 kills and 10 blocks and earned tournament MVP honors, while sophomore Ivana Kostic (Belgrade, Serbia/Srednja Skola Grocka) hit .409 on the day with 13 kills and five blocks.
Junior Paige Miller (Reading, Pa/Schuylkill Valley) had a career-high 52 assists against the Wildcats and finished with 143 assists over the tournament.
"Paige played outstanding volleyball and led our team with poise and confidence all weekend" Blanchard said.
Walker and Kostic added 13 and eight kills, respectively.
Blanchard said he was was especially happy with the play of senior Tanaeri Santiago (Bayamon, Puerto Rico/American Military Academy) who made a crucial dig in the fifth set to halt a big Weber State run and keep UMBC ahead. He also praised the play of sophomore libero Casey Griffth (King of Prussia, Pa/Upper Merion).
The Retrievers took the first set of game one against Weber State, extending their season-opening set win streak to seven, they then lost their first two sets of the year before rallying for the 3-2 win. UMBC also got pushed at times against UMES despite the sweep.
"The second set against UMES and the fourth and fifth against Weber State were tests," UMBC head coach Ian Blanchard said. "We found ways to win. We made all the serves and digs when we needed to. Contributions came from all over."
In the first match, the Wildcats (2-2) were lead by Audrey Biggs, who had 15 kills and nine digs. Against UMES, the Retrievers found themselves facing set point in the second set, but redshirt junior Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, MD/Western Tech) would get three straight kills to win the set.
Mlemchukwu would finish wiith 13 kills while hitting .500 in the match. UMES (1-3) was led by Ksenia Sukhareva who had 10 kills and six digs. Mirabella and Mlemchukwu were both named to the all-tournament team.
"We still have a lot of improvements to make, a lot more we can do." Blanchard said "We will go back and practice knowing we are gonna step it up, but it's good to be 4-0."
UMBC returns to action on Friday, September 5th, when they travel to Provo, Utah for the BYU Invitational. The Retrievers will have a challenging schedule in Utah as they face No.9 BYU and No. 4 Washington in addition to Utah Valley University.
"Next week we will be looking forward to the challenge, and look forward to playing high-level teams. It's going to be a special opportunity, and we are going to make the most of the situation."