Sept. 15, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, PA. - The Navy volleyball team was successfully able to turn back significant rallies by Central Connecticut State in the second and third sets to defeat the Blue Devils, 25-18, 26-14, 25-22, Saturday afternoon at McGonigle Hall on the Temple campus in Philadelphia.
"Today may have been the thing to happen to us in awhile," said Navy's second-year head coach Larry Bock. "We were able to stem the tide in the second and third sets and eventually win both and the match. It was a big thing for us to do. I'm not sure if two weeks ago we could have accomplished this."
Navy (4-8) slowly took control of the first set from CCSU (5-8), a team that posted a 20-11 record last year and placed third in the Northeast Conference with a mark of 11-5. The Mids held a 7-6 lead over the Blue Devils before gradually building up advantages of 12-8 and 14-11. A run of four consecutive points by the Mids separated themselves from the Blue Devils. After taking that 18-11 lead, Navy would hold a cushion of at least five points over the remainder of the frame.
The Mids scored four of the first five points of the second set and very quickly took a 13-3 lead. Navy seemingly was in control of the set as it extended the margin out to 17-6 and 21-11. However, CCSU stormed right back into the set. The Blue Devils would go on a 4-1 run to pull to within 22-15, then ran off the ensuing eight points to take a 23-22 lead.
Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) knocked down a kill for Navy to tie the score at 23-23, but a kill by Jamie Rademacher took the Blue Devils to set point with a 24-23 advantage. Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) staved off CCSU's opportunity with a kill for the Mids, then she ended the ensuing point with another kill to give Navy its own chance to serve for the set. Navy would convert the opportunity when Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah) posted a kill of her own.
Navy showed no ill effects of the second-set rally it allowed CCSU to go on when the third set began as the Mids jumped out to an early 8-3 lead. The Blue Devils sliced into the margin by pulling to within four points at 10-6, but Navy gradually built an 18-12 lead. Three-consecutive points by the Blue Devils made the score 18-15, but Navy scored two of the next three points to take a 20-16 lead. CCSU answered with a 3-0 run of its own to close to within one point of Navy at 20-19.
Back-to-back attack errors by the Blue Devils - with the latter of the two coming thanks to a block by the tandem of Ewert and Cassel -- gave Navy a little breathing room at 22-19. A Navy service error made the score 22-20 in favor of the Mids, then Ewert knocked down another kill to give Navy a three-point lead again. Rademacher tallied a kill to make it a two-point margin, then Cassel notched a kill to give Navy a 24-21 lead and three chances to win the third set and the mach. The first such opportunity went for naught as Emily Cochran posted a kill for the Blue Devils, but the Mids made good on their second chance when Fortner tallied a kill to end the match.
"We have to learn how to keep the foot on the accelerator," said Bock. "It was good for us to be able to hang on, but we made things harder for us than they needed to be."
Navy as a team held statistical advantages over CCSU in kills (42-32), attack percentage (.192-.073) and in blocks (10-6), while the Blue Devils edged the Mids by one dig (56-55).
Fortner would lead Navy with 14 kills, while Ewert just missed a double-double with nine kills and 15 digs. Fortner's kill tally and Ewert's dig total are both career highs for a three-set match for the respective players.
"Carolyn was key for us on both offense and defense toward the end of the second and third sets," said Bock. "She was great."
Additionally, Cassel finished the afternoon with eight kills and no hitting errors on 13 swings (.615) on offense, while on defense she notched a team-high seven blocks. While Ewert may have narrowly missed a double-double, setter Alex Karika (Fr., Cranberry Township, Pa.) did record one with her effort of 37 assists and 12 digs.
The Blue Devils were led on offense by Emily Cochran's 10 kills.
"Our young team grew up a lot this weekend," said Bock. "We have progressively improved since the start of the season. I'd say we are either about where we hoped to be with this team at the time in the season or even a little ahead."
Navy will now open up its Patriot League season this coming weekend when the Mids play host to Holy Cross on Friday (7 p.m.) and Army on Saturday (8 p.m.).