Saitaua Iosia was voted as the 2012 MEAC Preseason Player of the Year.

Aug. 22, 2012

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. -- The 2012 University of Maryland Eastern Shore volleyball team is coming off its most successful season in school history, winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title after an undefeated conference regular season and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. After UMES went 24-7 last season, including a 12-0 standing in the MEAC Northern Division, head coach Don Metil, in his sixth season at UMES, leads the Hawks in search of back-to-back conference titles and a sixth-straight 20-win season.

"We have a large core of returning players from a successful 2011 campaign," Metil says, "While they are a strong core of starters, we will definitely be young and need our recruiting class to make an immediate impact."

UMES returns its five top scorers, including three all-conference players, from last season, graduating just two starters from the rotation. Three newcomers will be added to the nine returners, including four who were in the top-200 in aces per set last season.

Coach Metil will combine a strong core of returners and newcomers to make up the hitting lines, which led the conference in hitting percentage and kills per game last season for the second consecutive year.

The unit is led by reigning MEAC Rookie of the Year and Russell HBCU Female MVP Saitaua Iosia (Long Beach, Calif.), who was named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year in July. The sophomore finished 2011 with 472 kills, hitting .292, and 49 service aces to lead the team, adding 286 digs and 54 blocks. She earned 10 conference weekly awards and was the first MEAC player ever to earn an American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I Player of the Week honor.

Second for UMES in scoring last season was Maline Vaitai (Salt Lake City, Utah), the 2010 MEAC Rookie of the Year, who goes into her junior season after earning 317 kills, 35 aces, 205 digs and 59 blocks in 2011, leading all outside hitters in the final category.



Playing on the right side, 6-foot-3 sophomore Victoria Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) played in all 31 matches as a front row player. She earned 113 kills and 58 blocks, leading all reserves in points scored.

Sophomore Emily Shannon (Cross Junction, Va.) will bolster the outside after serving as a reserve last season, playing in seven matches. She earned her first kill with the match-winner on the road against Hampton last season.

The Hawks also add a newcomer, Bridget Ebster-Schwarzenberger (St. Veiterstraâe, Austria), in freshman standing to the unit. Standing six feet tall, she has played on the U-18 and U-20 Austrian National Teams and has competed in numerous international tournaments.

The Hawks led the MEAC in blocks per game last season, and two of the top four players in the conference in blocks per game return for the Maroon and Gray.

Two-time All-MEAC Second Team member Kaveinga Lea'Aetoa (Salt Lake City, Utah) notched 208 kills with 19 aces and 88 blocks. The junior finished fourth in the MEAC with a .296 hitting percentage and 0.83 blocks per game.

Also in the middle is senior Ndidi Ibe (North Richland Hills, Texas), who was just one of two MEAC players to earn triple digit kills and blocks. Finishing third in the conference with a .308 hitting percentage and second with 0.98 blocks a game, Ibe earned 171 kills and 113 total blocks on the season.

UMES returns its two setters from last season, including the conference's best, plus adds a newcomer for a trio in the unit.

Jessie Vicic (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada) earned First Team All-MEAC honors last season after leading the conference in assists with 1209, and was the only MEAC player to average double digit assists per game with 10.42. The current sophomore and All-Preseason Team member added 34 aces, 150 digs and 59 blocks in 2011.

Returning from injury last season is Corey Haynes (Falls Church, Va.). The 6-foot-3 senior played off the bench in eight matches as a setter and front row player, getting 12 assists and three blocks.

Adding to the corps is freshman Elli Steiner (Hallwang, Austria), the former starting setter of the Austrian U-19 Team. Steiner has been in international competition for the past three years.

The Hawks are in search of a new starting libero this season, and two players will be in the mix to fill that role.

The lone returner on defense is junior Jingqiao Li (Beijing, China), UMES's primary libero during the 2010 season. Li played in 18 matches last year, earning 35 digs as a defensive specialist.

Also in competition is junior college transfer Megan Mueller (Manchester, Mo.) from Jefferson College. In two years with the Vikings, Mueller earned 741 digs, including 521 in her final season, earning 2011 All-Region XVI Team.

UMES will compete in five regular season tournaments in five different states, traveling all across the country including the west coast and the southeast. This season, the Hawks will face opponents from nine different conferences before playing a full 12-match MEAC slate en route to the conference tournament.

"In all, the schedule was designed to give us different levels of play, be tested early and often, and prepare us for a strong run at defending our MEAC title."

The season will begin in Brooklyn Heights, New York as the Hawks compete in the SFC Terrier Invitational, starting with the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday, August 24th at 1:00 p.m. The next day, the Maroon and Gray will take on tournament host St. Francis (NY) and finish with Radford.

The Hawks head south the next weekend to Savannah, Georgia to play five matches in the Tiger Invitational, which features six teams from five different states. On Friday, August 31st, the squad takes on Southern Utah and New Mexico. The following day will see matches vs. UNC Asheville and Kennesaw State, ending with a match against tournament host and MEAC opponent Savannah State on Sunday.

Next weekend, UMES goes across the border to the Mountain State to enter the WVU Golden Horseshoe Challenge. First serve for the Hawks will be against tournament host West Virginia on Friday, September 7th, proceeded by a pair of Saturday matches against St. Peter's and Wright State.

Metil's team returns to the southeast as it plays in the ASU Tournament in Montgomery, Alabama. Friday, September 14th sees the Hawks taking on North Texas and tournament host Alabama State. Then on Saturday, two more matches commence against Troy and Jackson State.

In its final non-conference tournament, the Maroon and Gray head back to California, the state of UMES's first-ever NCAA Tournament match last season. This time, the Hawks head to Bakersfield for the Roadrunner Invite. They will play a pair of matches against host CSU Bakersfield on Friday and Saturday, finishing up with a Saturday match against Utah Valley.

The five-time defending MEAC Northern Division champion begins its conference slate with an away match against Delaware State on Tuesday, September 25th. Two days later, UMES goes to the nation's capital to face Howard.

The 2012 season opener is set for Friday, October 5th at 7 p.m. when the Hawks host in-state rival Coppin State at the William P. Hytche Athletic Center. This is the first of six home matches UMES will play in October. Next week on Friday, October 12th, Hampton comes to Princess Anne for a 7 p.m. match, followed by a showdown with Norfolk State on Sunday, October 14th at 3 p.m. On Friday, October 19th, the team will get the crowd ready for Hawk Hysteria with a rematch against Delaware State at 6 p.m. The following Sunday will see an in-state match against Morgan State at 3 p.m. UMES finishes its home slate with Senior Day on Friday, October 26th against Howard at 7 p.m.

The following weekend, UMES heads across the Bay Bridge to play against its Baltimore conference foes, facing Morgan State on Friday, November 2nd at 7 p.m. and later Coppin State at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 4th.

Then it is across the Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Virginia as the Hawks finish their MEAC schedule, taking on Norfolk State on Friday, November 9th at 7 p.m. and Hampton on Sunday, November 11th at 3 p.m.

The MEAC Tournament will be held at a familiar site for the Hawks. The tournament is set for November 16th through the 18th at the Physical Education Complex in Baltimore, hosted by Coppin State, the same place where UMES won the conference title last year.

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