ALBANY — Even in defeat, moments after an America East Conference championship loss, UAlbany women’s volleyball head coach Josh Pickard and his team were able to keep Friday’s outcome in perspective.
“I don’t know if I can say [it’s] disappointing just because I think we were very fortunate for most of the season to go the way it did,” Pickard said during a post-game teleconference after his team’s five-set loss to visiting UMBC at University Gym.
In that, what Pickard meant was that UAlbany was even able to have a season at all amid the novel coronavirus pandemic — and that so much of it went well before its conclusion was marred.
After a 1-1 start in non-conference action, UAlbany won its first nine league matches before falling to Stony Brook on March 22. The team then needed to forfeit its two matches last weekend because COVID-19 protocols kept it off the court, but was able to return to action for Friday’s match, which UMBC won 23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 15-13.
“I honestly think that we put it all out on the floor and we really just tried our best every single point,” said UAlbany junior Charlotte Macken, a Shenendehowa High School graduate who was this season’s America East Defensive Specialist of the Year. “It didn’t turn out in our favor, but I think that we should all be proud of our performance because we really put in a lot of work. I’m proud of everybody.”
UAlbany’s unusual campaign was played in a six-week sprint that started in late February rather than in August like a normal season that stretches across several months. Due to concerns related to the pandemic, the season was delayed, and then condensed, and UAlbany almost made a near-flawless conference run to defending its America East championship.
UAlbany defeated UMBC twice during the regular season, but couldn’t earn a third victory with a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line. The Great Danes led 10-7 in the fifth set, but UMBC pushed ahead with a 5-0 run and UAlbany never could catch back up in the night’s deciding game.
The night’s match saw a limited number of spectators allowed into University Gym, the first time this season that fans were allowed at one of the Great Danes’ matches this season.
Even with the way things ended, in terms of Friday’s result, Pickard said he saw the positive in that the Great Danes’ season got the chance to end because of a match result.
“I’m proud of the way the team battled and glad to see the way the season ended,” Pickard said. “With everything that is going on, we made it to the end. We played in the championship. We hosted it. All good things. Wish it would’ve went our way, but can’t be disappointed in that.”
Sophomore Kamara Kelly, the America East Player of the Year, led the Great Danes with 14 kills and 12 digs, while senior Danielle Tedesco and freshman Hannah Rowe each had a dozen kills. Rowe also had 12 digs, Macken had 26 digs and sophomore Malea Stanton had 28 assists.
For UMBC — which improved to 11-3, while UAlbany dropped to 10-5 — Darina Kumanova had 22 kills and 17 digs, and Aysia Miller had 58 assists.
“It hasn’t been an easy road on any of us, and I’m so proud of this team,” UMBC head coach Cristina Robertson said. “They’re just a special group.”
“They were scrappy,” Macken said of UMBC. “They were getting every single ball up. They never gave up on one ball. We fought through that and tried our best, but kudos to them because they really worked hard.”