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Volleyball Posts Three-Set Win Over Lafayette; View Highlights

Erin Fortner

Sept. 21, 2013

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The depth of the Navy volleyball team that saw 13 players take to the court sparked the Midshipmen to a three-set victory over Lafayette Saturday afternoon at the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Navy defeated Lafayette by scores of 25-23, 25-19 and 25-16. The match was the first of the Patriot League season for the Mids (5-7 overall), while the Leopards fell to 0-2 in league play (8-4 in all) with the loss.

"We really used our depth today," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "We felt it would be one of our strengths this year, and today it was. This was a good team win."

The opening set was every bit as close as its final score of 25-23 indicates. The score was tied 17 times and the lead changed hands on 10 occasions. The score was tied at 21-21 when an attack error by the Leopards gave the Mids the slimmest of leads. That was followed by a kill from Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) that boosted Navy's advantage out to 23-21. Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) would commit an attack error from the back row, but Sylakowski notched another kill to take the Mids to set point with a 24-22 lead. An attack error by Navy's Raena Borcuk (Fr., Twin Peaks, Calif.) returned the serve to Lafayette, but setter Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) found Sylakowski on the ensuing play and her kill gave the Mids the first set.

"I thought we were in control in the early part of the first set," said Bock, "but then Lafayette really got its offense going. Their setter did a good job with finding one-on-one opportunities for her hitters. From then, through the middle of the third set, both teams played well."

The second set began with Lafayette scoring three of the first four points and building a five-point lead at 8-3. The Leopards soon held a 9-5 advantage, but Navy ran off the next five points to take a 10-9 lead. The score would be tied a total of eight times starting at 10-10 and running through 17-17. An Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) kill broke the tie for the Mids, then a kill by Fortner gave Navy a two-point lead for the first time in the set at 19-17. An attack error by Navy's Gaby Smith (Fr., Virginia Beach, Va.) sliced the lead in half, but back-to-back kills from Cassel and Fortner followed to boost the Mids to a 21-18 lead and result in a Lafayette timeout.

The Leopards came out of the timeout and scored on a kill by Samantha Volk. Fortner then posted a kill and dropped in a service ace to give Navy a 23-19 cushion and lead to another Lafayette timeout. This time the Leopards had an attack error after the stoppage of play, then Smith dropped in a kill after a Lafayette overpass to give the Mids a 2-0 advantage in sets.

Navy didn't rest on its lead as the Mids scored the first five points of the third set on their way to taking a 9-1 lead. Lafayette winnowed the margin down to four points at 11-7, but three-consecutive points by the Mids made the score 14-7. The Leopards tallied the next point, but another run by the Mids gave them an 18-9 advantage.

"An emphasis for us this week in practice has been getting out to good starts in sets," said Bock. "I'm not sure if the third set was a byproduct of that effort or not, but it was rewarding to see and to not have scary sets as the first two were."

The Mids improved upon their hitting percentage advantage over the Leopards in each of the three sets. After first holding a .226-.186 advantage in the first set, it grew to .333-.146 in the second set and .344-.103 in the third set. In all, Navy held a .291-.146 cushion for the match. Navy knocked down 51 kills in the three sets -- with nine different Mids recording at least one kill -- while limiting Lafayette to 33 kills. Though both teams recorded 4.0 blocks, Navy held a 64-49 lead in digs and a 6-3 advantage in service aces.

Leading all players in the match offensively was Fortner. She posted 19 kills and three attack errors on 34 swings for a healthy .471 hitting percentage. Fortner also tallied a pair of aces and seven digs on the afternoon. Her 19 kills was not only a season high -- previously totaled 18 kills in a five-set match -- it also was a new career high for kills in a three-set match (15) and places her in a tie for ninth place in Navy history for the most kills in a three-set match.

"Erin had a lot of pop in her arm today," said Bock. "Our setting and passing helped her have success. She had both good swings and a lot of swings, two things we will need if we want to reach the goals we have set for ourselves."

Navy's middle tandem of Cassel and Sylakowski also played well. The duo combined for 15 kills and just two attack errors on 31 attempts (.419). With Fortner holding down the offense on one wing, Navy's other outside position saw Smith post eight kills after tallying 10 kills all season - while Borcuk contributed four kills.

Defensively, Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) snared 23 digs for the Mids while also chipping in two assists and two aces. This is the second time in a three-set match the freshman has grabbed 23 digs for the Mids, which ties her for second place in school history for the most digs by a Navy player for digs in a three-set match.

Helping to steady the Navy defense were J.B. Loomis (Jr., Havertown, Pa.) with 10 digs and McKenzie Bailey (Fr., Dublin, Ohio), as well as by Smith with three blocks.

Lafayette's Karissa Ciliento notched a double-double with 12 kills and 12 digs.

Navy will now take to the road for a pair of league matches next weekend at Bucknell (Sept. 27) and Lehigh (Sept. 28).



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