Adaptability makes the University at Albany volleyball team a huge favorite to win its fourth America East Conference championship in the last five seasons.
The Great Danes, who have won 14 consecutive matches, went undefeated in conference play (12-0) and finished 20-8 overall. They host the America East Conference Tournament tonight and Saturday at University Gym. In tonight’s semifinals, they take on Maine at 7. Binghamton and University of Maryland Baltimore County square off in the other semi at 4. The winners play Saturday at 4.
“When we play well, we have answers for everything that any team in our conference can throw against us,” said interim head coach MJ Engstrom. “We can counter anything the other teams have, because we have so much flexibility on this team. That’s what makes championship teams.”
Although 5-foot-11 sophomore outside hitter Amanda Cowdrey remains in all six rotations and seldom comes off the floor, many other Great Danes move in and out of the lineup, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
“Valerie Sourbeer is one of our best blockers, when she’s on the top of her game, but when she’s not, we can use Cate Eckardt up front. Hillary White used to play for us three years ago, but she was injured, and then she got pregnant. She hasn’t played a full season in her entire career, so we also used Casey Wright in the middle,” Engstrom said.
“Kamisha Kellam is an awesome player, and she’s become most more consistent for us. But we can also fill in for her when she’s not having a good day. We have quite a few players who can fill in at many roles.”
The heart and soul of the team continues to be sophomore setter Brooke Stanley, who averages 10.51 assists per game.
“We’ve encouraged her to be as creative on the court as she wants to be, and that’s a good thing, for the most part,” said Engstrom with a laugh. “I was a setter myself when I played [at Minnesota], so I understand that you’ve got to allow your setter some room to create.”
Cowdrey tops the Great Danes in kills (330), followed by Kellam (277) and Sourbeer (208). Laurie Gonzalez, a freshman libero, has 288 digs.
“We’re very fortunate to have the kind of players we have,” said Engstrom. “Our players love being home, just like most teams, so I don’t believe they will feel that much pressure playing at home in the tournament. They really love our home crowd.”
The Great Danes may host the first round of the NCAA tournament, if they earn a berth.
- Siena College’s volleyball team, which finished second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, will host the MAAC Tournament Sunday and Monday. Siena (18-12) takes on Canisius in one semifinal, while top-seeded Fairfield plays Iona in the other semi. Burgandy McCurty went over the 500-kill mark for the season and needs only 12 kills to set the Saints’ single-season record in that category.
- Union College’s volleyball team posted the most wins (36) of any team in program history, regardless of sport. The previous record was 32 wins, by the Dutchwomen’s softball team both last spring and in 2006.
- Union’s football team has one of the nation’s longest streaks of non-losing seasons (.500 record or better) with 28. In NCAA Division II, UC Davis had 35 non-losing seasons from 1970 through 2004, and West Chester had 33 straight from 1940 through 1974. In the Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern Kentucky has 36 straight (1973 through this season), while in Division I-A, Penn State had 49 straight non-losing seasons from 1939 through 1987, There are no official records for Division III. Current national No. 1 Mount Union has a 31-year non-losing streak.
- The College of Saint Rose (18-3-2) will be making its fourth appearance in an NCAA Division II regional women’s soccer final when the Golden Knights meet University of Bridgeport today at 1:30 p.m. at West Chester, Pa. Saint Rose earned a spot in the Sweet 16 with a 4-0 victory over Franklin Pierce on Sunday.
- RPI’s Erin Kyle qualified for the NCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country Championships Saturday at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind.
- Jordyn Hage, niece of former Amsterdam High School football standout Joe Hage, has signed a letter of intent to play golf at Augusta College. Hage was a standout on the Florida Junior tour and was a student at Lake Willow High School in Winterpark, Fla. She is the cousin of Auburn University graduate and current Futures Tour player Nicole Hage.
Liberty League first-team all-stars in football were running back Chris Coney, tight end Josh McKelligan, offensive linemen Colin Berry (Shaker) and Tony Morello, defensive lineman Tim Romano and linebacker Joe Catalano (CBA). Linebacker John Peters, defensive back Kevin Rauntenstrauch and kick return specialist Cameron Johnson were second-team selections.
Junior defensive specialist Veronica Mynders was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honorable mention team, along with the ACVA New York Region all-star team.
Senior middle hitter Rachel Ormsby (BH-BL) was named to the AVCA New York Region honorable mention team in volleyball.
Sophomore Christine Kemp, the Liberty League Player of the Year in field hockey, was also named to the Longstreth/NFHCA Division III All-North Atlantic Region first-team along with junior Casey Tang. Junior Elise Britt (Saratoga Springs) and sophomore goalie Liz Catinella were second-team selections.
Erin McNally (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) and Colleen Callaghan (Glens Falls) were named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Division III All-Region second team.
Freshman forward Ashleigh Barone was named the MAAC Rookie of the Year in women’s soccer. Second-team all-MAAC selections included Sahne Brady, Sylvia Kowalski and Maria DeMatteo.
Freshman midfielder Oladele Akinyode, freshman defender Mame Samb and sophomore midfielder Kwame Sarpong earned second-team honors on the All-North Eastern Athletic Conference men’s soccer team.
In women’s soccer, sophomore forward Kristen Raina, sophomore forward Dana Hamm (Middleburgh) and sophomore defender Sarah Hoffman (Sharon Springs) were first-team All-NEAC members, while sophomore midfielder Liz Goyette was chosen to the second team.
Freshman middle hitter Natasha Mamrosh and sophomore outside hitter Danielle Skene were named to the All-NEAC second team in volleyball.
Quarterback Jimmy Robertson was named the Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year and was joined on the first team by wide receiver Eren Savasli, defensive lineman James McLaughlin, linebacker Stefan Schulz and return specialist Patrick McCarthy.
Lisa Pak was named to the NFHCA Division III All-Region second team in field hockey.
Phil Sykes was named the Coach of the Year, Michelle Simpson was named the Midfielder of the Year and Michele Polizois was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the America East Conference in field hockey. Ashley Carr and Ashley Ross were second-team selections. Simpson (first team), Polizois and Nicole Savage were named to the NFHCA Division I All-Northeast Regional team.
Senior forward Kailey Egbert was selected to the Daktronics NCAA Division All-Region second team in women’s soccer.
Amy Scheffer (Schalmont) was named the Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Year in women’s soccer.
Senior offensive lineman Brendan Kelly (Niskayuna) was named to the NESCAC all-conference team in football.
Junior defensive tackle Kwame Lovell (Schenectady) was named to the Liberty League second team in football.