UNH Denies UMBC in Five-Set Thriller to Win America East Championship

UNH Denies UMBC in Five-Set Thriller to Win America East Championship

DURHAM, N.H. – UMBC junior Hannah Schmidt (Catonsville, Md./Mount de Sales) matched her career-high with 19 kills and senior Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy) dished out 56 assists, but it was not enough as New Hampshire rallied to defeat the Retriever volleyball team in five sets (22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-29, 15-9), to win the America East title, Saturday afternoon at Lundholm Gymnasium.

With the win, UNH (20-12) earns the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament while UMBC's season ends with a 19-12 overall record after posting a 9-5 mark in league play.

Schmidt, an All-Conference Second Team selection, and McIntyre, the two-time conference Setter of the Year, were chosen to represent UMBC on the All-Tournament Team.  Over the course of the two tournament matches, Schmidt sent down 35 winners while picking up 21 digs, collecting two double-doubles to bring her season total to ten.  McIntyre, meanwhile, totaled 89 assists for the weekend for an 11.13 assists per set average.

Senior Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) registered her team-leading 15th double-double of the season versus UNH, putting away ten kills and scooping up a team-high 22 digs.  Classmate Emily Witsaman (Medina, Ohio/Medina) was also instrumental in the Retriever attack in the final, slamming 12 kills with sophomore Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech) tallying ten put-aways.

On the back line, freshman libero Casey Griffith (King of Prussia, Pa./Upper Merion) dug 17 balls to join Goc and Schmidt in double figures.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player Taylor Dunklau led UNH to a .249 hitting percentage while handing out 50 assists in the championship match.  America East Regular Season Player of the Year Morgan Thatcher benefitted the most from Dunklau's setting, recording 22 kills in the match.  Tori Forrest and Destiny Tolliver also notched double-digit kills, sending down 15 and 14, respectively.

UMBC looked strong out of the gate, turning a 2-2 tie into a 7-2 lead with five straight points, the last on a UNH attack error.  The Retrievers then endured multiple Wildcat rallies, but never let them within less than two points, and claimed the opening frame 25-22 as Schmidt ended the set with her fourth winner.

The hosts responded quickly in the second set, winning the opening three points, and never trailed throughout.  The Retrievers battled early, pulling even at 5-5 on a Schmidt service ace.  UMBC could not put back-to-back points together again until a two-point run cut the UNH lead to five, 16-11, and the Wildcats salted away the remainder of the set to level the match with a 25-17 set win.

The third set was the most emblematic of the match as the two teams traded the lead four times and were level on nine occasions.  Trailing for most of the set, including at 23-21, UMBC rallied late to capture the final four points of the set and take a two sets to one advantage.  Schmidt was superb for the Black and Gold, knocking down six kills in the frame, but it was a block from Witsaman and sophomore Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) which secured the set win.

The Retrievers continued the run in the fourth set, grabbing the first two points of the frame, the second courtesy of a McInytre and Witsaman block, but UNH then ran off four straight and never trailed the rest of the way.  Tolliver keyed the hosts in the frame, sending down six winners while Forrest tallied three put-aways.

In the decisive fifth set, New Hampshire opened by claiming the initial four points and then held off a valiant UMBC rally.  Trailing 10-4, the Retrievers earned back-to-back points on a kill from Goc and a Wildcat attack error to make the score 10-6, but could get no closer than four points.  With UNH leading 14-9, the Wildcats claimed the set and championship on a UMBC attack error.

Dawg Bites

-          New Hampshire has now won five straight over UMBC and leads the all-time series 14-9.

-          Saturday's championships match was the first non-regular season America East match between the two schools.

-          Goc's 22 digs bring her career total to 1,469, the third most in program history.

-          McIntyre recorded 50 or more assists in seven contests this season, handing out a total of 1,127 this season, the tenth-most in a single season by a Retriever.  Her 10.34 assists per set ties Lanae Baker (2006) for sixth-best in program history.

-          For her career, McIntyre dished out 2,049 assists, the eighth-highest total in Retriever history.