UMES will take home the MEAC Champion trophy for the first time.

Nov. 20, 2011

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BALTIMORE -- The University of Maryland Eastern Shore won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship for the first time ever with a five-set victory over Florida A&M (15-25, 25-17, 25-21, 18-25, 15-12) at the Physical Education Complex at Coppin State University.

With the win, UMES has earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks continue their winning streak with their 19th straight victory, improving to 24-6. Florida A&M falls to 13-13.

After All-MEAC Second Team middle blocker Kaveinga Lea'Aetoa (Salt Lake City, Utah) earned the first kill of the match, the Rattlers came strong with a 5-0 run with two aces from Maria Ceccarelli. FAMU built up an 18-6 lead in the game. UMES took five of the next six points including aces from Lea'Aetoa and Zoe Bowens (Long Beach, Calif.) and a kill and two blocks from Ndidi Ibe (North Richland, Texas), but ultimately it was not enough as the Rattlers won set one 25-15.

Game two started back and forth as the score was tied at five each. The Hawks put together a 3-0 run capped by a Lea'Aetoa ace for an 8-5 lead. UMES kept a lead when the Rattlers took three of four points late to get within three at 17-14. The Hawks surged ahead with five straight points including kills from Victoria Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Maline Vaitai (Salt Lake City, Utah), plus a Bowens ace, to take a 22-14 lead. UMES took the set 25-17 to even the match.

At 4-4 in the third game, MEAC Rookie of the Year Saitaua Iosia (Long Beach, Calif.) went to work on a personal 3-0 run with a kill and two aces for a 7-4 UMES lead. The Hawks did not allow any back-to-back points against them until the Rattlers got two to put UMES's lead at 17-14. After FAMU got to within one at 19-18, Iosia got a kill and solo block to put the advantage back to three. At 22-20 UMES, the Hawks took three of the final four points, including two kills from Vaitai, to win the set 25-22 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.

Four kills from Marija Jovanovic gave FAMU an early 5-0 lead into the fourth set. After a timesout, UMES came forward with four straight points off the serving and a kill from Rebecca Prado (Annandale, N.J.) to get within one. The Rattlers stayed ahead and rebuilt the lead to four. The Hawks had another 3-0 run with kills from Lea'Aetoa, Williams and Vaitai in order to get back within one 9-8. A 4-0 run from FAMU gave the Rattlers a five point lead again, one which they would not relinquish, winning the set 25-18 and forcing a tiebreak set.

After the Rattlers took the first point in the fifth game, a service error and a Vaitai ace gave UMES its first lead at 2-1. FAMU took back the advatange with three of the next four points for a 4-3 lead. The Hawks earned the lead back with an Iosia kill and an ace from All-MEAC First Team setter Jessie Vicic (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada) to go up 5-4. Both sides traded points when at 7-7 off the serving of Bowens, UMES blocked its way to a 5-0 run, including a Bowens ace and finishing with a Vicic solo block and two combined blocks from Vicic and Ibe for a 12-7 lead. FAMU got to within two at 12-9, where UMES and the Rattlers traded points up to game point 14-11. After the Rattlers scored a point, Iosia finished the match with her 25th kill to end the fifth set 15-12 and secure UMES's first ever MEAC Volleyball title.

"Today was a great win for the entire UMES volleyball community," says MEAC Coach of the Year and Most Outstanding Coach of the Tournament Don Metil, "Friends, family and student-athletes of all years past can enjoy this win."

Iosia ended the match with a double-double with 25 kills and 11 digs, adding three aces and a pair of assists. Vaitai also got a double-double, earning 10 kills, 11 digs, two aces and a pair of blocks. Ibe amassed nine kills and six blocks. Vicic set 46 assists, adding six blocks plus a kill and ace. Lea'Aetoa had six kills and three aces while Williams got five kills and two blocks.

"It won't quite hit until the banner drops at the Hytche, but we are making history and it feels great," says Bowens.

For the Rattlers, Ceccarelli got 22 kills with seven digs and a block. Jovanovic finished with 19 kills, three digs and three blocks. Katherine Huanec had 11 kills with three digs.

Iosia was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Performer, finishing the three matches with 54 kills and leading the Hawks in that category every match. The rest of the All-Tournament Team included Ceccarelli, Krysta Gardner and Janeen Davis of Bethune-Cookman, Shantel Moore of North Carolina Central and Krista Kraskura of Hampton.

"It feels like the start of a new beginning," says Iosia, "I have a long way to go. It was a replay of winning the championship in high school, and it was amazing."

UMES will find out their opponent in the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced on November 27th at 6:00 p.m.



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