Sunday, November 19, 2006


Albany, N.Y. – Kamisha Kellam had a career-high 19 kills and Ashley DeNeal added 13 kills and a career-best 37 digs, as UAlbany rallied from a huge deficit in a 3-2 victory over UMBC that captured the America East Conference Volleyball Championship on Sunday, Nov. 19. The Great Danes, who won by scores of 27-30, 22-30, 30-26, 30-18 and 15-12, receive an automatic NCAA berth as the conference tournament champion.

UMBC (16-15) looked in firm control after winning the opening two games and building a 22-16 lead in the third. Freshman Ashley Oscars, the conference’s rookie of the year, and Sarah Ball helped create that margin with 18 and 14 kills, respectively.

UAlbany (19-10) then turned the match around by running off 10 of the game’s next 12 points. Kellam, a sophomore, drew her team even at 24 apiece, before Shelby Goldman, an all-tournament selection who had 18 kills and 18 digs, finished off two attacks to put her team ahead.

DeNeal, the championship’s most outstanding player, helped UAlbany run off eight unanswered points to start the fourth game. She ignited the outburst with a kill off a blocker and ended the spree with a service ace. The Great Danes led by as much as 14 in the stanza.

In the fifth and deciding game, UAlbany jumped out to an 11-6 advantage when Kellam scored off a quick set and UMBC’s Sarah Fillmore hit an attack long over the end line. However, the Retrievers, who upset defending champion Binghamton in the semifinal round, would close the gap. Amanda Willey and Ball, who totaled 23 digs, blocked DeNeal’s attack to slice the margin to 13-12. But the Great Danes scored the last two points, including Goldman’s game-winning kill in the middle of the floor.

“(Ashley) DeNeal’s shoulders were big in the comeback,” said UAlbany coach Kelly Sheffield, whose team became the first to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the conference championship match. “She and Shelby (Goldman) came up huge. This senior class has been through everything; they stayed calm. I think they just got both irritated and competitive.”

Ashley Crenshaw added 12 kills for the Great Danes, who will make their second NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the 2004 America East title in another five-game championship.

“We just believe in ourselves and I am proud of our team,” offered DeNeal, whose squad last came back from two games down against Syracuse last November. “We played with some nerves in the first two games, but then we were aggressive in the moment. It feels good to come this far and then battle it out.”

UMBC’s Jessie Folk and Angela Anderson had 12 kills apiece. Anderson, a sophomore outside hitter, converted three attacks in the first game, which went back and forth with 14 ties and five lead changes. Folk’s kill off a block jump-started a run of four consecutive points that broke open game two.

“We do not play well when we are frustrated, so we just kept going point by point,” explained UAlbany setter Blair Buchanan, the America East player of the year. “We picked up our passes in the third game and that helped get the middle involved. I always have confidence in Ashley (DeNeal) that she will do whatever it takes to get the job done. She has the mentality that she’s not going to lose and wants the ball.”


2006 America East Conference Volleyball Championship

UAlbany def. UMBC, 27-30, 22-30, 30-26, 30-18, 15-12

America East Conference All-Championship Team

Morgan Sweany (Stony Brook), Megan Hoag (Binghamton), Kira Giles (UMBC), Sarah Ball (UMBC), Kamisa Kellam (Albany), Shelby Goldman (Albany), Ashley DeNeal (Albany)

Most Outstanding Player – Ashley DeNeal ( Albany )

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