By David F.P.
WEST HARTFORD, CT- The University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers had a very impressive win streak going, only losing to the Hartford Hawks once in their history of meetings. At times it looked like each team was going to put the other away, but the two teams fought to a 2-2 tie after 4 sets, leading to a decisive fifth set which the Hawks largely dominated to pull out to a lead and hold it before an energetic crowd at the Auxiliary Gym (“The Aux” as I’ve taken to call it) Friday night.
UMBC pulled out to a lead quickly over Hartford and held on throughout the set finishing things off 25-18. Offense for the Retrievers included Ali Loynachan’s kill to open up the set, followed by Hannah Schmidt. Schmidt would pick up another kill along with Dalton Tolliver, and Emily Vandegrift would launch a missile into the Hartford zone right before Iman Kennedy sent a kill off the block and out of bounds. Loynachan ended a long back and forth between the teams with a kill, and added two more very quickly afterward. Schmidt struck again spurring Hartford time out.
Later Vandegrift and Tolliver shared a block, as did Alexandria Spaay and Kennedy. Spaay had had a big defensive save the point before. Vandegrift used a cross court smash and a light tip for 2 more points, Schmidt crushed the ball a couple of times as the run towards 25 points continued. During a volley the ball popped up at the net and Tolliver crushed it back over. She would be responsible for the last point of the set as well.
Hartford’s offense included Michelle Cordell’s early whap off the defenders, a kill from Kami Nethersole, and a rocket launched by sister Sareeta soon after. Many Hartford points came from UMBC errors, but Dionna Kirton added a big kill off the defenders, and Kami Nethersole had a huge block stuffing an attack. She added a kill through the blockers, Lindsay Anderson picked up a kill from the net as well, Kami Nethersole would pick up a few more kills, and Kirton would add another. Jackie Tamburri used her fake set to launch a kill into the opposing zone for a point in the latter stages of the set as well. Libero Danielle Etta had one of many of her great saves on the day during the set as well.
Hartford grabbed the lead early in Set 2 and did not want to let go of it on the way to a 25-17 win. Tamburri’s service ace tied the set at 4, and a point later, Etta had a defensive save which kept the ball in play and eventually Kami Nethersole and Anderson had a block, Anderson then teamed up with Sareeta Nethersole on another block, and Kami added two straight kills to put the Hawks up by 4.
More offense would come from Sareeta Nethersole, Anderson, a Cordell kill, and a block from her and Kirton, Sareeta Nethersole’s service ace and a solo block from Cordell as well, before her own kill. Later Tamburri set up Kami Nethersole who unleashed a furious spike for another point. Cordell and Tamburri shared a block as well. Later Tamburri fed Kami Nethersole again and a rocket was launched into the UMBC zone. Cordell served up another ace, and late Anderson had another big kill. Kirton had a block from the 24th Hartford point and a UMBC attack error ended the set.
Early on UMBC’s Tolliver had a cross court blast, and Vandegrift used a lighter touch. Other offense included more kills from Vandegrift and a slew from Loynachan. Schmidt had a great defensive save during a play though Hartford eventually ended up with the points. Tolliver added a kill late. Hallie Carter and a teammate also shared a great play to keep the ball going and a teammate’s kill made it all worth while, very later in the set Vandegrift and Kennedy both added kills in the effort.
Set 3 went UMBC’s way as they went up 25-19 to take the after both teams tied at 12-12 to start things off. Tolliver, Vandegrift, and Kennedy all had kills, and Kennedy had a block. Megan Groess had a kill as well, and Kat Lincalis served up an ace. Kennedy added a jumping smash for the 12th point to tie things up. Hartford meanwhile was generating offense from multiple Kami Nethersole kills, Tamburri used another fake set attack, and Sareeta Nethersole added a kill off the block, Cordell used a light touch off the defense, and Kami Nethersole was responsible for the 12th Hartford point.
Tolliver took a set and launched a kill in, and Groess added another. She had a good defensive save along with Lincalis on a rally back and forth later, and eventually UMBC took another point. When Tolliver struck yet again it was with a 3 point lead. Hartford did climb back in , and Kami Nethersole’s kill and a block from Kirton and Anderson cut the deficit to 1, but a 4 point scroing run fetaturing a cross court kill just within the boundary lines from Vandegrift, a kill just in front of the back line from Tolliver, a put down from Vandegrift and a Kennedy kill. Taylor McCreery responded for Hartford but Spaay had a put down at the net and following a good save by Carter, Kennedy struck hard again, Vandegrift added a solo block to create set point, but both Kirton and Cordell refused to give it up with two successive kills. Loynachan did end the set with a kill however.
In set 4 Hartford raced out to a 4-0 lead. Kirton’s service ace started things off and two Kami Nethersole kills sandwiched around a Cordell rocket quickly led to a UMBC time out. When play resumed Loynachan’s kill broke the U of H scoring streak. A Retriever attack out of bounds and yet another kill from Kami Nethersole put the lead at 6-1, though Loynachan cut it again only to have a Anderson launch a ball into the back. Tolliver’s kill from the net was followed by Kami Nethersole whacking down an errant UMBC pass. Vandegrift tapped the ball over for a kill, though Sareeta Nethersole launched a cross court spike to good effect. Loynachan’s block kept her team within 5, though Tamburri used a variation of her look like she’s setting it but attack instead this time going backhanded with it over the net and the score was 10-5.
After a UMBC picked up another point, Tamburri fed Cordell who unleashed a painful kill into the visitor’s zone, a Retriever attack error, Tamburri hitting back an overpass, and a Kami Nethersole attack to the gap put Hartford up 14-6. each side traded attack errors, but Cordell served up another ace and the score was 16-8.
UMBC however was not done by any means. A Hartford error, a block from Spaay and Tolliver, another point, and an ace from Hallie Carter gave them 4 points quickly. One of their attacks sailed out of bounds and Kami Nethersole struck again to put it at 18-12, but they responded with 7 unanswered points to take the lead 18-19.
It began with Vandegrift’s rocket, Tolliver’s ace, a double contact error on the Hawks, and Vandegrift shared a block with Kennedy, and then whacked the ball in through the blockers. Kennedy and Spaay’s block tied it up and an antenna contact error on Hartford gave up the lead.
Tamburri set Kami Nethersole and she hit the ball hard in for another kill to tie it back up, but a double contact error put the Hawks back down. Tamburri then set it to Anderson on the next play and a massive kill resulted. Hartford two Hartford attack errors a UMBC kill put the score at 23-20 in favor of the visitors.
UMBC spiked the ball into the net and Hartford was back within two. Tamburri’s solo block cut the lead again, and Kirton’s kill tied it back up. Cordell than added a big kill of her own to the equation and a UMBC attack error sealed it, 25-23. The two teams were tied at 2 sets a piece in a nail biter.
Set 5, a 15 point race to the finish began. Kami Nethersole opened things with a spike. Tamburri made a key defensive save to keep the ball in play and Cordell struck. UMBC picked up a point in response, but Kami Nethersole landed a cross court kill just within bounds. Sareeta Nethersole had a defensive save to keep the ball in play and Hartford benefited from a UMBC double contact error. The score was 4-1 and the Retrievers called time out. When play resumed Schmidt picked up a kill to cut the lead in half, but on the next play the visitor’s sent an attack out of play. Tamburri fed Anderson and when she does there’s usually a crushing attack to follow and it did. Despite a defensive save by Carter, Anderson and Sareeta Nethersole’s block resulted in another point. On the ensuing play, Etta went racing to catch up to an errant ball and kept it in play so Kami Nethersole could also keep it going, eventually Sareeta made a turning one handed kill for the point.
The score of 8-2 led to another time out by UMBC. Vandegrift picked up a kill to resume play, but an attack error and a block from Sareeta Nethersole and Anderson put the lead at 10-3. Vandegrift responded, but a serve into the net afterward kept the deficit large. Loynachan’s spike off the defenders and out of play cut the lead again, but Sareeta Nethersole hammered it back on the ensuing play. Schmidt and Kennedy shared a block, and a Hartford spike into the net, joined with a Schmidt and Tolliver block gave UMBC 3 points in a row but that was all they would get. Two straight attack errors made it 14-8, and Cordell ended the set and match with a kill. 15-8.
Offensively for Hartford, Kami Nethersole had 24 kills on the day, and a hit percentage of .360. Cordell had 11, Sareeta Nethersole 7, Anderson 6, Kirton 4, and Tamburri 4. Tamburri had 46 assists on the day and a service ace, though her periods when she was serving were often very productive for the Hawks. She also had 22 digs on the day, Dionna Kirton had 17, Sareeta Nethersole 14, and Kami Nethersole 13. Etta had 5 in addition to some of her critical saves of the day.
Anderson participated in 5 blocks, Cordell 4 including 1 solo, and Sareeta Nethersole and Kirton each had 3. Cordell had 2 service aces on the day.
For UMBC, Tolliver had 16 kills on the day, Vandegrift 15, Loynachan 11, Kennedy and Schmidt each had 7. Spaay had 49 assists and 14 digs, the libero Ali Goc had 13 digs, Loynachan 13, and Carter 10. Kennedy took part in 6 blocks including 1 solo, Tolliver and Spaay each were part of 3 blocks as well.
Hartford had 25 errors on the day, and UMBC 27.
Coach Don Ferguson’s Hartford club is now 10-10 and 1-2 in the America East. Ian Blanchard’s UMBC squad is 11-8, 1-3 in the conference.
Editor’s Note: This is based on notes taken at the match, verified against the official play by play if possible. [Official box score was posted on the official athletics website.] Reports focus on offense since it is easier to track but note defensive play whenever possible. It is difficult to note things like digs and assists although they are no doubt vital to the game. Also, a lot happens in a volleyball game, far more than can fit into a report, so this just notes some of it.