Buzzards Bay, MA – The Merchant Marine women's volleyball team defeated Maritime (NY) and Maine Maritime on Sunday to finish with a 3-0 record and claim the tournament championship at the 3rd Annual Maritime Classic. Cassandra Palma (Loomis, CA) was selected as the event's Most Outstanding Player after leading the Mariners with 16 kills in the title contest against two-time defending champion Maine-Maritime.
Merchant Marine (7-3) opened the day with a 3-0 sweep of the Privateers as Palma blasted 13 kills on 18 attempts without making an error. The Mariner defense smothered Maritime (NY), holding them to a negative hitting percentage in every set. USMMA continued to serve as tough as they have all season, totaling 26 aces.
Maritime (NY) (0-6) was never able to grab any momentum and fell by scores of 25-9, 25-10, and 25-7. Michelle Danhof (San Antonio, TX) recorded eight kills and a match high 11 digs against the Privateers. Paige Queen (Falcon, CO) directed the offense and dished out 20 assists. The Mariners punched their ticket to the championship match after posting a blistering .421 hitting percentage.
Maine Maritime (5-4) supplied a much stiffer test in the title contest and was led by Melissa Lail's 12 kills. However, USMMA used a stretch in which it rattled off eight straight points in the first set to open up a 13-5 advantage. Charlene Swick (Incline Village, NV) registered four solo blocks in the match as the Mariners claimed the first set, 25-19.
The Mariners took control of a tight second set by winning five of six points to grab an 18-13 cushion. Caitlin McCabe (Edgewood, NM) and Kelly Hodges (Lakewood, CO) were both key factors in the championship match, finishing with eight kills and 11 digs, respectively. USMMA finished the game by taking the last four rallies to move within one set of the title after a 25-18 triumph.
Maine Maritime refused to let Merchant Marine sweep its way through the tournament field and jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the third set. Maine Maritime would go on to take the frame, 25-16, and force a fourth set.
USMMA faced a deficit throughout the fourth set as the rival Mariners went on top, 8-2. However, Merchant Marine battled back to level the score at 16-16 on a Danhof service ace. But the drama was not yet over as USMMA faced a pair of set points at 24-22. Danhof saved the first with one of her nine kills of the match and a service ace from Queen tied it at 24-24.
Danhof took control of the last two points for the Mariners, hammering home a kill to set up a match point at 25-24. Riley Huelbig (Poolesville, MD) earned her final assist of the night on the play as she finished the game with 39 helpers. Danhof came up with a solo block on championship point to end the set, 26-24, and the match, 3-1. Danhof's performance also earned her a spot on the all-tournament team along with Palma.
USMMA has now won four straight matches as they return to action Wednesday night in New York City for a non-conference contest against NYU.