Mariners Drop Dramatic Season Opener to Rutgers-Newark, 3-2

Cassandra Palma
Cassandra Palma

Kings Point, NY –
Sophomore Cassandra Palma (Loomis, CA) supplied the Mariners with a double-double, 13 kills and 11 digs, in the first match of the 2012 campaign but USMMA fell to Rutgers Newark in five sets Friday inside O'Hara Hall.  Merchant Marine won the first set, 25-21, with a late surge but would have to battle back from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth and deciding frame.  However, an early Scarlet Raiders charge proved to be too much as the visitors knocked off the host team in the night cap of day one of the 2012 Kings Point Invitational. 

Merchant Marine (0-1) battled neck and neck with the visitors in the opening set with neither team being able to open up a comfortable margin.  Michelle Danhof (San Antonio, TX), who finished with nine kills, pushed the Mariners in front 21-20 with a solo block and followed that with a service ace to make it 22-20.  Palma and Caitlin McCabe (Edgewood, NM) then hammered home back-to-back kills to give the Mariners set point.  McCabe, a freshman, ended her first collegiate set with the game winning kill as the Mariners claimed the opening stanza, 25-21.

Rutgers-Newark (1-0) responded in the second set and engineered a 14-2 run to build a commanding 16-5 cushion.  The Scarlet Raiders cruised down the stretch to take the game, 25-10.  Rachel Witt was dominant for the visitors all night as she racked up 21 kills, six service aces, 10 digs, and seven total blocks.

The Mariners again faced an early deficit in the third set as Rutgers-Newark jumped out to a 7-3 edge.  However, USMMA rallied back to take a 10-9 lead following a Danhof service ace.  But the Scarlet Raiders were stronger down the stretch, finishing the frame with a 12-3 run en route to a 25-17 victory.

The raucous crowd in attendance, which featured the entire freshman class, got behind the home team as the Mariners stormed off the bench in the fourth set.  Merchant Marine lead the game from wire-to-wire and Kelly Hodges (Lakewood, CA) issued one of her nine kills of the night on set point as the Mariners claimed the game, 25-22, to force a fifth.

Rutgers-Newark immediately gained the momentum in the fifth set and bolted out to an 8-1 cushion on a run that included four Witt kills.  Again, USMMA continued to fight and would rattle off four straight points to close the gap to 11-7, forcing a Scarlet Raiders timeout.  Unfortunately, the Mariners would run out of time as Witt used one final swing to end the set, 15-10, and the match, 3-2.

Merchant Marine will look to rebound on the final day of the 2012 Kings Point Invitational.  The Mariners open the day with a 12:00 pm clash against New Rochelle followed by an 6:00 PM meeting with Farmingdale State.