ALBANY — The UAlbany women’s volleyball team will play Friday for the America East Conference championship it has worked toward all season — and in front of some fans, too, for the first time since prior to the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“When I called my dad, he was ecstatic that gets to actually see us play this year because he’s never missed a game, and this year was the first he couldn’t come to any games,” UAlbany senior Danielle Tedesco, a senior from Cazenovia, said earlier this week.
UAlbany officially announced Thursday that it will start allowing limited fans at athletic contests, starting with Friday’s competitions. Besides the volleyball team’s home 7 p.m. championship match against UMBC, UAlbany is also hosting a 2 p.m. men’s soccer game against Vermont.
For the volleyball match, “attendance will be capped at 100 spectators and limited to guests of players and coaching staff,” according to a press release issued from the school’s athletic department.
UAlbany junior Charlotte Macken, who was recognized earlier this week as the America East Defensive Specialist of the Year, said the extra noise in the Great Danes’ University Gym will only help the team as it chases after its second consecutive league championship.
“I think it’s all positive,” said Macken, a Shenendehowa High School graduate. “They’re really just going to feed our energy on the court.”
UAlbany started its season 10-1, but has been credited with three consecutive losses heading into its final against a UMBC squad that is 10-3 overall. UAlbany lost to Stony Brook on March 22 to snap a nine-match winning streak, then had to forfeit two matches last weekend when it was unable to play because of COVID-19 protocols.
UAlbany head coach Josh Pickard said the Great Danes “are not going to have our full roster” for the championship match after last weekend’s pandemic-related issues within their program. He declined to disclose which players won’t be able to compete in the final.
“But I think the rest of the team is looking forward to the opportunity to step up and get a third chance at UMBC,” Pickard said.
UAlbany topped UMBC twice during the regular season. The Great Danes won the first match between the teams in four sets, then needed five sets to take the second contest.
“In those matches,” Tedesco said, “we had a lot of grit, and we fought and pushed through.”
Macken said the Great Danes will need a similar effort to earn another league crown.
“Every single point matters,” Macken said, “and we’re prepared for that.”