HAWKS ARE WVU GOLDEN HORSESHOE CHALLENGE CHAMPIONS AFTER SATURDAY SWEEP
MORGANTOWN, W.V. - UMES won its second non-conference tournament on Saturday, becoming the WVU Golden Horseshoe Challenge champion after defeating St. Peter's in three sets (25-23, 25-16, 25-15) and Wright State in five (25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 15-13) to win all three of their matches in the invitational and improve to 10-1 on the season. After their matches with UMES, St. Peter's fell to 1-11 and Wright State dropped to 1-10.
UMES adds this championship with its first one from the SFC Terrier Invitational two weeks ago.
After Lauren Behrens opened the first set with a kill, Jessie Vicic (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada) responded with a dump kill to tie the game. Both sides traded leads early as neither team led by more than one early. At 6-5 St. Peter's, UMES won three straight off a pair of Peacock errors and an Ndidi Ibe (North Richland Hills, Texas) kill to push UMES ahead 8-6. The Peacocks tied it up at eight before UMES went on another 3-0 run, including a Maline Vaitai (Salt Lake City, Utah) service ace and Bridget Ebster-Schwarzenberger (St. Veiberstrabe, Austria) kill for an 11-8 advantage. UMES retained the lead, building it to four after a Megan Mueller (Manchester, Mo.) service ace for a 19-15 lead. But the Peacocks came alive and surged through an 8-0 run off the serving of Jenny Pliska, including an ace and two Stephanie Mills blocks, taking a 23-19. But the Hawks did not fold, earning four straight kills, including a pair from Ebster-Schwarzenberger, to tie the score at 23. UMES kept going, and after a Mills attack error, Ebster-Schwarzenberger hit her fourth kill of the set to complete the 6-0 run and win the game for UMES 25-23.
In the second set, St. Peter's transfer and current UMES player Corey Haynes (Falls Church, Va.) took the floor against her former school. Ebster-Schwarzenberger and Kaveinga Lea'Aetoa (Salt Lake City, Utah) each had a kill and block in UMES's first four points as the Hawks took an early 4-2 lead. In the first 12 points, UMES won two for every one St. Peter's point. At 8-5 UMES, two consecutive Ibe kills and a Laura Reinhart attack error put the Hawks up by six. St. Peter's pulled to within four at 12-8, but the Hawks countered with a 3-0 run off the serving of Emily Shannon (Cross Junction, Va.) and a Haynes kill for a seven-point Hawks advantage. The Peacocks did not again get within five as three kills by Victoria Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) and a couple more late blocks, totaling six blocks in the set, gave UMES a 25-16 set win and 2-0 lead in the match.
An early 3-0 UMES run, started on a Vaitai kill and ending with a Williams and Ibe combo block, gave the Hawks an early 3-1 lead in the third set. The Peacocks returned with three straight points off kills from Reinhart and Lexandra Wirth. The response was quick and decisive from the Maroon and Gray as at 5-5, UMES took seven consecutive points, including four kills in a row for Ebster-Schwarzenberger and a Vaitai ace, to go up 12-5. The Peacocks tried to comeback with a 3-0 run later to pull with five 14-9, but the Hawks quickly struck back, rolling off four straight points, capped by a Vicic ace, for an 18-9 lead. UMES took the set 25-15 to complete the sweep of St. Peter's for its ninth win of the year.
The Hawks next played Wright State in their final match of the tournament. With the Raiders getting the first two points, Saitaua Iosia (Long Beach, Calif.) served the Hawks through a 4-0 run to give UMES a 4-2 advantage. At 6-4 Hawks, a service error, Ibe and Vicic combo block and Vaitai kill pushed UMES to a five-point lead. The Raiders took three of the next four points, but the Hawks countered with a 5-0 run, helped by an Ibe block and ace, for a 15-7 lead. WSU could not get close as another pair of 3-0 runs by UMES sealed the set for the Hawks 25-15 for an early 1-0 lead.
The second set saw a number of runs by both sides early. UMES started up 3-1 after a block and kill from Williams, but Wright State responded with three straight points started by a Samantha Daniel kill. The Hawks later went on a 3-0 run off an Iosia kill and Vaitai ace, which again was countered by a 3-0 WSU run on kills by Daniel and Dani Branco. Wright State got a three-point lead after a UMES service error and Ashleigh Lucco ace to go up 14-11. Each side exchanged points when at 16-13 WSU, the Hawks won four of the next five points, including a pair of Lea'Aetoa kills, to take the lead 18-17. The Raiders regained the advantage with spring of three straight to go to 21-19, but UMES also got three straight off two kills and a Lea'Aetoa ace to go up 22-21. But the Raiders finished the set on a 4-0 run to win the set 25-22 and tie the match.
Wright State got off to a fast start in set three, using a kill and two blocks from Daniel on a 4-0 run to go up 7-4. Following an exchange of points, Mueller and Ibe led the Hawks through six straight points, with Mueller serving an ace and Ibe adding two kills and a block, for an 11-8 UMES lead, turning into 13-9 following a Natalie Catani kill with kills from Ibe and Ebster-Schwarzenberger. After 3-0 run after a WSU point gave UMES the 16-10 lead. But the Raiders did not go away quietly, earning a pair of late 3-0 runs to pull within two at 20-18 UMES, getting to within one point after kills from Daniel and Heidi Splinter. But on Vaitai's serve, WSU had three straight attack errors, pushing UMES to a 25-22 victory in set three and a 2-1 lead.
Into the fourth game, action started back and forth, with neither side getting a two-point lead in the first 12 points. At 6-6, Branco served Wright State to win six points in a row, including three kills from Aiello, for a 12-6 Raiders advantage. An Ibe kill and Emily Shannon (Cross Junction, Va.) ace was countered by a 3-0 WSU run. Things were tough for the Hawks as another late WSU run pushed Wright State up eight 19-11, eventually leading to a 25-15 Raiders set win and forcing a fifth set tiebreaker.
UMES had a very strong start to the fifth set as an Ibe kill, Vaitai kill, Ibe and Vicic combo block and Ebster-Schwarzenberger kill gave the Hawks an opening 4-0 lead. But after a timeout, Wright State responded with a 6-0 run, started by a Branco kill and finished on a Branco ace. Next point, Shannon blocked an attack from Aiello as the ball hit the line to stop the run. At 7-5 WSU, UMES tied it up on a Haynes and Ibe combo block followed by a Lea'Aetoa kill. The two sides again exchanged points until 10-10. The team captain took over from there, hitting a kill to give UMES an 11-10 lead. Next play, Williams blocked a Branco attack for the two-point advantage, then Vaitai earned another kill to put UMES up 13-10. Wright State was not done, with Catani earning a kill and ace to pull the Raiders within one 13-12. Vaitai earned another kill to setup match point. After an Aiello kill, a furious rally led the yet another Vaitai kill, her fifth of the set, giving UMES the fifth set 15-13 and the match 3-2 over Wright State.
After the tournament concluded, Lea'Aetoa was named Most Valuable Player, finishing the three matches hitting .315 with 26 kills, three aces and five blocks. In addition, Ebster-Schwarzenberger and Williams each earned a place on the All-Tournament Team. Ebster-Schwarzenber hit .449 in the tournament, tallying 25 kills and 10 digs, while Williams had a hitting percentage of .315 with 25 kills and eight blocks.
Ebster-Schwarzenberger led the Hawks with 25 kills on Saturday, including a career-high 13 against St. Peter's, with just three errors to hit .458 on the day. Lea'Aetoa had a total of 19 kills, hitting .324, with a pair of aces and five blocks. Ibe had 16 kills and 14 blocks while Vicic ended with a combined 68 assists and 19 digs, earning a double double against Wright State with 45 assists, 16 digs and five blocks.
In the match against UMES, Behrens led the Peacocks with eight kills, adding six digs. Reinhart got six kills with three digs and a pair of blocks, while Mills contributed four blocks and a kill.
Wright State was led by Splinter's 14 kills and 12 digs for a double double, adding four blocks. Aiello had 11 kills, four digs and three blocks, while Catani just missed a double double with eight kills and nine digs.
UMES will head home and prepare for the ASU Tournament next weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, starting with North Texas on Friday, September 14th at 9 a.m.