Mariners Split Two Matches at Home: Defeat York, Upended by Montclair State

Riley Huelbig
Riley Huelbig

Kings Point, NY – The USMMA volleyball team went 1-1 Saturday afternoon, defeating York, 3-1, after falling to Montclair State in a five set heart breaker.  The Mariners racked up 23 aces in their victory over the Cardinals.  Merchant Marine is now 5-3 inside O'Hara Hall this season and with eight wins already in 2012, is one victory away from matching its total from last season.

York (NY) (3-12) overcame two separate five point deficits to make the opening set tight down the stretch.  The visitors would get a kill from Sharon Fordyce followed by a USMMA error to get the first set point at 24-23.  The Mariners would save that set point on a kill from Cassandra Palma (Loomis, CA) but another error made it, 25-24, Cardinals.  York claimed the first set, 26-24, on the strength of a Maria Suero-Santos kill.

Merchant Marine (8-5) grabbed all of the match's momentum from that point.  The Mariners exploded out to a 7-2 cushion on the strength of back-to-back service aces from Paige Queen (Falcon, CO).  Michelle Danhof (San Antonio, TX) recorded four of her match high 11 kills in the set as USMMA took game two, 25-19. 

The Mariners again jumped on the Cardinals early, claiming the first sex points of the set.  York committed seven hitting errors in the frame en route to a -.143 hitting percentage.  USMMA's lead continued to grow throughout the game until a Cardinal service error ended the set, 25-14.

USMMA never let up and took ten of the first 12 points of the fourth set.  The Mariners went on to hit .235 in the game as York posted a -.312 mark.  Merchant Marine went on to win the set, 25-8, and the match, 3-1.

Riley Huelbig (Poolesville, MD) nearly posted a double-double as the redshirt-freshman totaled 24 assists and nine digs.  Caitlin McCabe (Edgewood, NM) posted six kills and a team high .308 hitting percentage in the victory.

Merchant Marine started off strong against the Red Hawks as the Mariners engineered a 9-1 run to grab a 16-8 cushion in the opening set.  Cassandra Palma (Loomis, CA) hammered home five kills without making an error in the first game.  She would also provide the final point of the set with a kill that ended the first game, 25-17, in favor of USMMA.

Montclair State (15-4) used an early surge of its own in the second set, claiming six of seven points to go on top, 12-6.  Both teams struggled with their attacking in the game but the Red Hawks seven service aces would prove to be the difference.  The Mariners fought off four set points before a kill from Daniella Salemo gave the set to the visitors, 25-20. 

The Mariners sprang to life in the third set, jumping out to an 8-2 lead on a Michelle Danhof (San Antonio, TX) kill.  Danhof finished the contest with nine kills and a match high 16 digs for USMMA.  However, Montclair State rallied back to level the score at 8-8 before another Merchant Marine run allowed the home side to push ahead, 19-12.  Palma, who totaled a match high 14 kills, again supplied set point by powering one down to give the Mariners the third set triumph, 25-17.

USMMA appeared to be headed towards victory after cruising to a 9-1 advantage to start the fourth set.  Montclair State burned both of its timeouts to regroup and the strategy worked.  The Red Hawks battled back to level the frame at 14-14 and eventually earned three set points at 24-21.  The Mariners saved the first two on a Palma kill followed by an ace from the sophomore to make it 24-23.  But a Dana McNish kill ended the set, 25-23, to force a fifth and deciding game.

The fifth set was a back-and-forth battle that featured seven tie scores and five lead changes.  Back-to-back kills gave the Red Hawks match point at 14-13 as well as forcing USMMA to use both of its timeouts.  An errant set accounted for the final point as Montclair State won the game, 15-13, and the match, 3-2.  Three of the Mariners five losses in 2012 have come in five set contests.

Kelly Hodges (Lakewood, CO) notched three kills without making an error versus MSU as well as posting nine digs.  Huelbig directed the offense again, dishing out 29 assists while Charlene Swick (Incline Village, NV) rounded out the match with eight digs and four total blocks.

The USMMA volleyball team returns to action Wednesday night inside O'Hara Hall as they square-off with St. Joseph's (LI) at 7:00 PM.