Saturday, November 20, 2004


Albany, N.Y. – Ashley Hunter had a tournament-record 28 kills and Shelby Goldman added 25, as UAlbany rallied past Maine, 3-2, to win its first-ever America East Conference Volleyball Championship on Saturday, Nov. 20 at University Gymnasium. The Great Danes, who won by scores of 30-20, 28-30, 22-30, 30-20 and 15-13, became the first women’s program in school history to earn an NCAA Division I Tournament berth.

UAlbany (27-6) had to come from behind for the first time this season, trailing 2-1 after three games. Hunter, the championship’s most outstanding player, helped draw her team even with nine kills in the fourth. She nailed a pair of winners in a four-point run that snapped a 9-9 tie. Goldman, who was also on the all-tournament team, nailed four kills in sending the final to a fifth and deciding game.

Maine (17-11) took a 13-12 lead in the fifth, when Carmen Morgan, who recorded a double-double with 18 kills and 15 digs, blasted a shot off a blocker. The Great Danes responded with three consecutive points to win the title. Ashley Green spun a service ace to the right sideline to give her team the lead. Goldman then delivered the game-winning point, when she sent back Morgan’s dig that just cleared the net.

"This is just amazing for our seniors to get a conference championship," said UAlbany coach Kelly Sheffield, whose team won just four of 24 matches in 2001. "We kept our composure and stayed positive. Our ball control got better after the third game, and Hunter just got on a roll."

Maine’s Brittany Howe, a 6-foot senior, had six of her 16 kills in the third game, when her team seemed to take control of the match. All-Conference outside hitter Kaili Jordan totaled 13 kills and 10 digs for the Black Bears, who handed UAlbany its lone conference regular-season loss eight days ago.

"I really can’t explains how this feels," said America East Player of the Year Blair Buchanan, who had 62 assists and 13 digs from her UAlbany setter position. "This was our goal all year. I never thought we would lose. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for what we can accomplish in the future."

UAlbany’s Ashlee Reed added her sixth double-double of the season with 10 kills and 13 digs. The Great Danes, who have won 21 of their last 22 matches, will await the NCAA pairings to be announced on Nov. 28.

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