Volleyball Posts Win in Season Opener
BOX SCORE Katie Sylakowski (Jr., Escondido, Calif.) posted a career high 17 kills while hitting .577 to help lead the Navy volleyball team to a four-set victory -- 25-23, 25-27, 25-26, 25-23 -- over Providence Friday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The match, which served as the season opener for both teams, closed out day one of the annual Kristen Dickmann Invitational at Navy.
"To win a match where the other team was passing so well," said Navy head coach Larry Bock, "and one with so many good rallies too, that's a great way to start the year. It was fun to see Katie put the team on her shoulders. It was a neat way for both Katie and team to get out of the gate."
Neither team was able to separate itself from the other in the first set as the score was tied seven times and the lead changed hands on five occasions. The Mids took an 18-16 lead only to see the Friars sprint out to a 21-18 advantage. Navy responded with a 5-0 run of its own to take a 23-21 lead, but Providence notched the ensuing two points to knot the frame at 23-23.
The Mids were able to serve for the set after a kill from Dorothy Murrary (Fr., Harbor City, Calif.), then a kill by Gaby Smith (So., Virginia Beach, Va.) on the ensuing point gave them the opening set.
Navy also held a set point in the second frame when a kill by Sylakowski and an ace by Sophia Luczak (So., Aiea, Hawaii) gave it a 24-23 lead. The Friars answered with a block by the tandem of Mackenzie Ziegler and Annie Russian to tie the score, then took a 25-24 lead when the duo of Abbie Trzeciak and Russian combined for another block. The first opportunity for the Friars to win the set was erased when Providence committed an attack error, but a kill by the Friars and a Navy attack error tied the match at one set apiece.
The Mids had built early leads of 4-1 and 7-3 in the second set, but were unable to hold onto the advantages. The third set saw Navy build an early 7-1 lead and this time it maintained a cushion of at least five points over the remainder of the set to take a 2-1 lead.
Sylakowski did not commit an attack error in the match until the penultimate point of the third set. She bounced right back on the next point as her kill ended the frame. It was her 14th kill on 21 swings (.619) of the match.
Providence took a slim lead in the early stages of the fourth set before opening up a 13-9 advantage. Navy slowly chipped away at the deficit and soon tied the set at 15-15. Back-to-back points gave the Friars a 17-15 lead, but the Mids tallied the next five points to take a 20-17 lead. Providence would score the ensuing three points to tie the score -- for the fifth time in the set -- at 20-20.
A Navy kill was followed by a Providence kill to give both teams 21 points on the scoreboard. Smith would loft a ball just over the outstretched arms of the Friars on the next play to break the tie, then back-to-back kills from Rachel Fortner (Fr., Villa Hills, Ky.) gave the Mids a 24-21 lead. A service error by the Mids sliced the margin down to 24-22, then it became a 24-23 Navy lead on a ball handling error by the Mids. Navy would go back to Sylakowski on the next play, and she pounded down a kill to close out the proceedings.
"We had struggled at the end of sets and matches at times last year," said Bock. "To have all of that momentum from the middle of the fourth set on to the end was a great indication this team is pretty solid physically and emotionally. To have such a young team persevere so well is a real good sign."
Navy hit at least .250 in all but the second set (.152) to end the night with an overall mark of .253. Conversely, the Mids limited the Friars to a hitting percentage of below .100 in all but the second set (.243) and held them to a tally of .116 for the match. Navy recorded 62 kills on the night and held Providence to 42 kills. The Mids also held cushions over the Friars in both digs (66-49) and blocks (9-4).
Sylakowski's 17 kills (with only two errors on 26 attempts) bettered her previous high of 13, and her .577 attack percentage was just shy of tying her career-best mark of .591.
"Katie was just real physical all evening," said Bock. "One of the things that won't necessarily show up in the box score is how well she served. She served the heck out of the ball. Those became strong rotations for us. It was a real complete game by her."
Joining her in double figures for kills was Smith with a career-high 11 to go along with a career-high .320 attack percentage. Five additional Mids -- four of whom are freshmen -- knocked down at least six kills in the match, as setters Fortner and Star Steele (Jr., Tampa, Fla.) did a nice job of spreading the ball around to account for 49 assists between them.
Defensively for the Mids, Alli Graf (So., Annapolis, Md.) snared 21 digs with Shelby McCool (Fr., Eugene, Ore.) accounting for 11, while Alex Cassel (Sr., Sandy, Utah) totaled a match-best five blocks.
"Our new players, such as Maggie Phillips (Fr., Leesburg, Va.), gave us a lift from the time she entered the game to the end," said Bock. "It was interesting to see the crowd get into it from all of them."
Kayla Fitzgerald led Providence's offense with 10 kills while also adding 11 digs.
The Kristen Dickmann Invitational continues Saturday with four matches. The Mids will face Southern Utah, which opened play Friday with a 3-0 win over The Citadel, at 11 a.m., followed by the Friars playing The Citadel at 1 p.m. The final two matches of the day consist of Providence taking on Southern Utah at 4 p.m. and Navy playing host to The Citadel at 6 p.m.
Admission is free to all Navy home volleyball matches. Also, links to free live statistics from each of the four matches can be found at NavySports.com.