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UMBC wins tournament, Lopez MOP

Claudia Lopez was named the Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament Most Outstanding Player with 101 assists in three matches.

Claudia Lopez was named the Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament Most Outstanding Player with 101 assists in three matches.

Sweep of Morgan State on Friday and Winthrop on Saturday morning insured the UMBC volleyball team the title of the 2016 Maddie Bingaman Memorial Tournament, but it was their five-set loss to Robert Morris in the second match of Saturday’s double-header that head coach Ian Blanchard said his team got the most out of.

More important than winning a non-conference game to an opponent that would have no affect on the Retrievers’ postseason hopes, is getting them ready to play through a grueling conference slate that starts in less than two weeks.

It was pretty clear heading into their game against Robert Morris that sophomore setter Claudia Lopez has been the better settle for his team, but that did not stop him from giving Krystia Negron an opportunity as the starter against the Colonials.

“I wanted to give Krystia an opportunity and it didn’t quite work our as well as I would have liked, but she’s going to continue to have opportunities,” Blanchard said. “Her job is to come back to practice with more resolve, ready to continue fighting and getting better and that’s what we want out of all of our players.”

UMBC actually took an 18-9 lead in the opening set, largely because of the tremendous power Abbie Mirabella displayed hitting on the outside. Often she was hitting balls so hard that Robert Morris players didn’t have a chance to move out of the way to either let it go out of bounds or get a good bump on it to set up their offense.

But Robert Morris, a team filled with juniors and seniors, mounted a furious comeback. They were sparked by their coach being issued a yellow card after an attacking error was called on Taylor Lord. After that the Colonials won 10-straight points to make it a 20-19 score. The run finally ended with a service error.

Robert Morris still have the momentum and everything going their way as the Retrievers hit just .083 in the opening set with nine attacking errors. UMBC did save a set point when Negron blocked an attack by Lord, but a kill and attacking error gave RMU the early lead.

In the second set, very little went right for UMBC. The Retrievers had seven attacking errors with only seven kills. UMBC got it close at 8-7, but and 8-1 run push RMU out to a commanding lead. UMBC only managed six more points in that set as the Colonials won it 25-14. There was very little flow for UMBC’s offense and they struggled even more hitting over the Colonials block at the net.

That was when Blanchard pulled the trigger on the switch to get Lopez back in the game. Her sets had much better placement and it was more unpredictable where she was putting it in the air for which hitter to take.

With Lopez in, UMBC flipped things around with a 25-14 third set victory and then won the fourth set 25-22. In the fifth set, UMBC had two match points, but were unable to complete the tremendous comeback.

Lopez’ impact on the match was pretty clear. She finished with 35 assists and with 101 in the tournament she was named the Most Outstanding Player.

“She has a good connection going on with a lot of our hitters, not just our outside hitters…and she’s playing with a lot of confidence now,” Blanchard said. “She’s a highly competitive person and she’s bringing a level of competitiveness into the gym and onto the court.”

After winning five-straight matches, in a way it was good for the team to be stuck in that sort of a game, especially with so many young players. Of course a win was what Blanchard wanted, but he said “opportunities like this match give us the opportunities to learn about ourselves. I told them ‘don’t dwell on it, don’t dwell on the mistakes and don’t dwell on the loss. It happened, learn from it and leave it behind you.’ that’s something we need to be able to do and that’s something we will do.”

And with on more tournament at Columbia next weekend, where the Retrievers will play the host Lions and Providence, before opening up America East player against Stony Brook on September 23, Blanchard said he will still tinker with the lineup even if that means giving somebody an opportunity over somebody else who may be playing better at the time.

“Competing with each other, hopefully a rising tide raises all the ships,” he said. “We compete with each other not against each other. … We’re going to continue to make changes to our lineup and change our position players to make sure we’re getting better.”

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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