By Ryan B. Harrison
The UMBC women’s volleyball team started the 2014 season with four straight victories, their best start since 2007. Twenty days later, the Retrievers are two games below .500 and have only taken two out of their past 25 sets.
UMBC has faced some tough opposition recently, including No. 20 Arizona State University, No. 12 Brigham Young University and No. 5 Washington University. The Retrievers were shutout in all three of those matches.
The Retrievers have shown promise in a few of their stronger sets against ranked opponents. In the third set versus Arizona State, the Retrievers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and led by as many as five points before the Wildcats found their offense. The teams battled for a few points, but runs of four, three and three points gave Arizona the clinching set.
Service has been a high point for the Retrievers all season and they currently lead the America East conference in serving aces with an average of 1.71 per set. Freshman outside hitter Abbie Mirabella currently leads the America East with 21 aces over the season.
The Retrievers come in around the middle of the pack in just about every other statistical category when compared to their conference peers. They rank fourth in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage and blocks.
A huge area of concern for the Retrievers heading into conference play is the lack of defense the team has been able to muster. A paltry 10.48 digs per set puts them last in the conference by nearly six.
Despite poor standings statistically, UMBC currently sits third in the conference based on non-conference win percentage. Stony Brook University is second at an even .500, while Hartford University is in the top spot with a 9-6 record and a .600 win percentage.
The Retrievers have one final non-conference match before opening conference play at Stony Brook next Friday, Oct. 3. Prior to that, UMBC will travel to the nation’s capital to take on Howard University, who currently sit at 7-7 with a two game losing streak.