Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seniors Lead University of Albany to Sixth America East Volleyball Championship - UAlbany Sports 2011

Albany, N.Y. - America East Conference Setter of the Year Brooke Stanley was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, as she led UAlbany to its sixth America East Conference Volleyball Championship with a 3-0 sweep of Stony Brook on Saturday evening at University Gymnasium. The Great Danes defeated the Seawolves with set scores of 25-19, 25-21 and 25-17 to take home their second straight championship title and sixth in the last eight years.

The two teams battled through the first set, which was tied three times in the early going, including 7-7 on a kill by All-Tournament selection Casey Wright. Wright's kill sparked the Great Danes to then build up an 11-8 advantage on a kill by Traci Vandegrift. However, Stony Brook climbed back to tie the set at13-13 on a kill by America East Player of the Year Alicia Nelson. The teams exchanged points before a kill by Samantha Brostrom and a block by Stanley and Gabby Whitworth put the Great Danes up, 19-16, and prompted the Seawolves to take a timeout. Vandegrift and Whitworth teamed up to block an attack by Evann Slaughter, before UAlbany got to set point on a kill by Dunja Prgomet. Wright finished off the set with a kill down the middle to give the Great Danes a 1-0 advantage.

The second set started off much like the first, with the teams tying up the score nine times before UAlbany took the lead for good on a kill by Wright that put the Great Danes on top, 15-14. UAlbany continued to build on its lead, getting a kill by Vandegrift and a service ace by Brostrom to pull ahead, 21-17. The teams again exchanged points down the stretch before Wright gave UAlbany set point on a kill from an assist from Stanley. Kaitlin Costello extended the set a point with a kill for Stony Brook, but Wright smashed the winner for the second straight set to give UAlbany a 2-0 match lead.

UAlbany came out firing after the break, as Stanley served for the first six points of the set. After a ball handling error gave the ball to Stony Brook, Laura Hathaway served for three straight points to pull the Seawolves to within 6-4. Stony Brook took a timeout after a huge solo block by Wright that pushed UAlbany's lead to 11-7, and the Seawolves were able to regroup and take advantage of some Great Dane miscues to pull back within 11-10. UAlbany would not fold, however, and climbed to a 21-16 lead on back-to-back kills by Wright and Prgomet. Abbey Wexel, one of four seniors on the UAlbany squad, served for four straight points, as the Great Danes got to set point on a kill by Prgomet. Stony Brook's Greta Strenger smacked a kill to try to keep the Seawolves in the match, but Wright finished off the third consecutive set for the Great Danes to give the Great Danes the victory.

Wright recorded a team-high 14 kills, hitting .542 for the match, and also finished with three total blocks. Prgomet, who joined Wright and Stanley on the all-tournament team, added 12 kills and six blocks for the Great Danes on .440 hitting. Stanley totaled a match-high 39 assists, while libero Laurie Gonzalez totaled 14 digs. Stanley quarterbacked the team to a .393 hitting percentage, while the Great Danes out-blocked the Seawolves, 8-0.

"We put pressure on ourselves every day in practice," said UAlbany head Coach MJ Engstrom, who was named the league's coach of the year for the second time. "This is all part of that. We get better and better every day at practice, and this is the result. [Stony Brook] played a great match. Fortunately, we played a little bit better."

Nelson led all players with 16 kills and also added six digs. Strenger added 12 kills for Stony Brook, while setter Kelsey Sullivan finished with 36 assists and nine digs. Libero Laura Hathaway totaled a match-high 17 digs for the Seawolves. Stony Brook finishes the 2011 season with a 15-13 record overall.

UAlbany (21-8) has reached the 20-win plateau for the fifth straight season and fourth under head coach MJ Engstrom. The Great Danes will find out their destination in the NCAA Tournament via the America East's automatic bid on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. The NCAA Selection Show will be broadcast live on ESPNU and

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