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Retriever volleyball enter conference season with hearts pumping black and gold

Retriever’s volleyball looks to extend their America East record Oct. 13 against New Hampshire. After an impressive sweep of Hartford, UMBC was on a four-game winning streak until a 3-0 Stony Brook loss. The Retrievers have returned triumphantly with an at-home win against Binghamton on Friday Oct. 6.

That opening game against Hartford had junior Paola Rojas (San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico/Notre Dame) showcase a career-high 14 kills and be named UMBC athlete of the week. This was while she still waited on word from her family after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

“It was kind of hard to concentrate on my game, but I had my coaches. They were there for me, helping me out. It was just a team effort,” said Rojas.

Last year’s two games against Stony Brook each went the full five sets and were extremely competitive. Head Coach Ian Blanchard hopes for another easy sweep, but feels that both teams are evenly matched on multiple fronts which should lead to another competitive night for the Retrievers.

So competitive were their games last year that junior Kristin Watson (Bowie, MD/Eleanor Roosevelt) nearly broke the school record for digs in the Stony Brook game. Head Coach Blanchard feels Kristin Watson, coming off defensive player of the week honors for the Hartford game, brings an energy to the team that compounds with the comradery seen with Paola Rojas.

“She’s just such a positive bolt of energy as a defensive player,” said Blanchard. “I think she inspires her teammates and everyone else wants to work hard around her.”

Head Coach Blanchard, speaking briefly about their game against No. 12 ranked Nebraska back on Sept. 1, brought up the size difference UMBC normally faces. That loss appears to have inspired the team moving forward though.

“We’re not the most physical team in the conference, we’re not the biggest team in the conference, but we like to think that we play with a lot of heart,” said Blanchard

As seen by the rallying around our athletes with family in Puerto Rico, to the positive impact Kristin Watson brings to the team, it is hard to argue that UMBC volleyball does not have an incredible amount of heart.

They will need that sense of family to continue their great start to the conference.