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Volleyball Drops Five-Set Match to Air Force

Alex Cassel

Sept. 11, 2013

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Air Force jumped out to an early lead in the decisive fifth set to the defeat the Navy volleyball team Wednesday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Falcons (2-5) recorded a 25-22, 19-25, 25-21, 24-26, 15-4 win over the Midshipmen (3-5).

It marked the second year in a row in which Air Force defeated Navy in five sets.

"This is not a happy loss," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "This is a hard loss. We let things get away from us."

Air Force held an early 9-5 lead in the first set before Navy closed the margin down to one point at 12-11. The Falcons scored the ensuing three points to take a 15-11 lead, and held an advantage of as many as five points at 20-15. Navy chipped away at the deficit and soon the Mids trailed by just two points at 21-19. It would also be a two-point margin at 22-20, 23-21 and 24-22 before an Air Force kill closed out the first set.

The second set saw Navy go on a 4-0 run to take a 12-8 advantage and then lead by at least three points and by as many as seven points (19-12) in winning the frame.

The Mids seemed on their way to duplicating their efforts in the third set as they jumped out to an early 10-4 advantage. The Falcons sliced the margin down to one point at 15-14 before Navy took three-point leads at 17-14, 19-16 and 21-18. Air Force, however tallied the ensuing seven points to win the second set.

"We were in control of the third set," said Bock, "then our ball control and junior high team play broke down."

Air Force promptly scored the opening two points of the fourth set on its way to taking an early 9-5 lead. Navy answered by tying the score at 11-11. The score was tied at 12-12, 13-13 and 14-14 before the Falcons took two-point leads at 16-14 and 17-15. Back-to-back points by Navy tied the score at 17-17, and then the teams were tied again at 18-18, 19-19, 20-20, 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23. An Air Force attack error gave Navy a 24-23 lead, but a service error by the Mids tied the score for the 12th time in the set at 24-24. Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) knocked down a kill to give Navy the chance to serve for the set a second time. This time the Mids took advantage of the opportunity as a kill from Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) gave Navy the fourth set.

"We had a nice comeback in the fourth set," said Bock.

The score in the fifth set was tied at 1-1 when the Falcons posted back-to-back points to take a 3-1 lead. After a Navy kill, Air Force scored the next five points to take an 8-2 lead, and its advantage never dipped below five points over the remainder of the set.

"We became passive with our play in the fifth set," said Bock. "You can't back off in your play against a good team, especially in a fifth set, but that's what we did."

Air Force held a .274-.201 attack percentage advantage on Navy, but much of that can be attributed to the Falcons hitting .333 in the final set and holding the Mids to a mark of -.227. Through four sets, Air Force's hitting advantage was just .267-.265.

Most of the other final team statistics on the night were nearly identical as Air Force held slight leads over Navy in kills (61-59), aces (10-7), digs (71-69) and blocks (6-3).

"No team is going to win many matches when it is on the short end of kills, hitting percentage, aces, digs and blocks," said Bock.

Individually, Fortner and Cassel each posted 15 kills for the Mids, while Cassel's fellow middle hitter Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) notched 12 kills. Cassel recorded just one attack error on 26 swings for a .538 attack percentage, while Sylakowski went errorless on her 25 attempts to end the night with a mark of .480.

"Our middle hitters were absolute studs," said Bock. "Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) did a good job of getting the ball to them when she could. Erin's hitting numbers don't do justice for how she played tonight."

Defensively, Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) snared 22 digs for the Mids, while Fortner hauled in 15 digs.

Air Force saw four of its players record double-digit kills, with Cami Richan pacing the team with 14. Additionally, Emma Dridge grabbed 27 digs for the Falcons.

"Richan and (Ayesha) Hein (10 kills) were difficult matchups for us," said Bock. "We had to keep them out of system. As long as we had decent ball control, we were okay."

Navy will now travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, to play three matches as part of the UC Invitational II. That event begins Friday with matches against tournament-host Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky on Friday, with a match against Cleveland State slated for Saturday.



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