By Christian Hince | November 22, 2021
The UAlbany Great Danes volleyball team swept New Hampshire in the American East conference semifinal. Playing in the arena of the tournament-hosting UMBC Retrievers, the victory brings the Danes to a conference record of 8-4 and 14-14 overall. They now sit at .500 for the first time since the beginning of September. Meanwhile, the Wildcats finish their season at 7-5 in the league and 16-12 overall.
UAlbany scored the night’s first point with an Oren Abutbul kill, facing early pushback with New Hampshire leading 2-1 and 3-2. Fighting back and forth for several exchanges, two straight Grace Cozad kills put the Danes up 10-7. Both teams traded a few points before a 6-1 Wildcats run put them up 17-16, however, this was their last lead of the night. Three straight points from the Danes brought control back their way, and a Lilou Stegemen kill gave them the victory, 25-21.
In the second, UAlbany leaped out 7-1, soon extending this commanding advantage to 12-3. While New Hampshire somewhat stabilized and brought the margin down to as few as six, the Danes built their lead to a resounding 25-13 win.
Despite the third set’s earliest moments being tight, UAlbany, up 4-3, scored eight of the next ten to make this margin an imposing 12-5. The Wildcats then scored four straight, however, the Danes erased this comeback with four of their own. New Hampshire also fought back a bit to see a deficit of 19-14, just for UAlbany to put the match out of reach with three straight. Winning 25-17, the Great Danes ended a dominant night of volleyball.
Oren Abutbul led the squad’s offense with 13 kills and a .550 hitting percentage, while Charlotte Macken spearheaded the defense with 13 digs. Lilou Stegemen also found the leaderboard with two of the Danes’ three service aces and a team-high five blocks.
Malea Stanton, the team’s leading setter, as usual, earned Coach Pickard’s praise with 41 assists to her name. “Malea did a fantastic job, and our passers made life easier for her,” he said.
The win means UAlbany will face tournament host UMBC in the American East Conference Championship. “I am looking forward to some rest and another great match tomorrow,” said Coach Pickard. The Great Danes won’t have much rest, but they will need all the preparation they can get fpr the most important match of the season.