Sept. 28, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team rallied after dropping the first two sets of its match against Lehigh and then allowing the Mountain Hawks a pair of chances to serve for the match in the fifth set to pick up a dramatic victory Friday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Midshipmen posted a 21-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-16, 17-15 win over the Mountain Hawks.
It is the second consecutive season in which the Mids have rallied to win a match after dropping the opening two sets. Navy accomplished the feat nearly one year ago to the day with a victory over Bucknell on Sept. 24, 2011.
"This is a good win," said Navy head coach Larry Bock, "for about 15 hours. We have talked all season long about needing to put together a complete weekend of matches. We really have yet to do that. We put ourselves in position to do so with our five-set win against Hartford in the first match of the year, but we didn't back that up with our play the following day. We have a tough match in just a few short hours (Navy plays host to Lafayette Saturday at Noon) and we need to get our heads back into things and be ready to play.
"The quality of tonight's win depends upon how we follow it up tomorrow against Lafayette."
Lehigh (4-8, 1-2 Patriot League) jumped all over Navy (6-9, 2-1) at the start of the first set. The Mountain Hawks quickly scored eight of the first-nine points of set and would eventually build an eight-point lead at 15-7. Navy slowly chipped away at the margin and closed to within one point at 19-18 on a kill from Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah). The teams would play sideout volleyball for a short stretch to give Lehigh a 21-20 lead, then a kill by Kaylynn Genemaras gave the Mountain Hawks a 22-20 lead. That was followed by an attack error from Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) that expanded the difference out to three points at 23-20. Fortner ended the next play with a kill, but Lehigh claimed the ensuing two points to win the set.
The second set was tied at 10-10 when Lehigh went on a 3-0 run to take a 13-10 advantage. The Lehigh cushion would hover between one and three points until another 3-0 run by the Mountain Hawks allowed them to push it out to four points at 20-16. Navy answered with a Fortner kill, but the Mountain Hawks scored the final five points of the set.
The third set featured the score being tied 15 times and the lead changing hands eight times. Lehigh held the largest lead of the set for either team -- three points -- at both 21-18 and 22-19. At the latter score, Navy's Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) posted back-to-back kills to make the score 22-21 and force a Lehigh timeout. The Mountain Hawks would take a 23-21 lead on a kill from Amanda Clark, but that would prove to be the final point of the frame scored by the visitors.
Katie Sylakowski (Fr., Escondido, Calif.) recorded a kill to pull Navy within one point, then Cassel and Fortner teamed up for a block to tie the score at 23-23. Sylakowski stepped back to the service line and tallied back-to-back aces to give the Mids the 25-23 victory.
Just as sets two and three were close in the beginning, so was set four. Navy held a 10-9 advantage before recorded five of the next six points to build a 15-10 lead. After a Lehigh kill made the score 15-11, the Mids scored back-to-back points as part of a 5-1 run that increased its comfort zone to 20-12. Navy expanded its lead out to as many as nine points at 24-15 before winning the frame and extending the match into a fifth set.
Navy jumped out to a 3-1 lead at the start of the set, only to see Lehigh take a 4-3 lead. The score would then be tied at 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10. A sideout by Lehigh gave it an 11-10 lead, which it expanded out to 12-10 when Taylor Poole blocked Ewert. A Sylakowski kill sliced the margin in half, but that was followed by Jade Van Streppen notching a kill to boost Lehigh out to a 13-11 lead. A Lehigh attack error (13-12) was followed by another Van Streppen kill to take the Mountain Hawks to their first opportunity to serve for the match. A Fortner kill made the score 14-13 and led to a Lehigh timeout.
The timeout didn't rattle the Mids as Cassel dropped in a kill to tie the score at 14-14. Lehigh successfully sided out when Van Streppen and Ana Vrhel combined for a block of Cassel to make the score 15-14. A Fortner kill would tie the score at 15-15, then a kill by Ewert gave Navy both a 16-15 advantage and its first chance to serve for the match. J.B. Loomis (So., Havertown, Pa.) dropped back to serve and promptly recorded a service ace to give the Mids the victory.
"We thought after the first two sets we were siding out pretty well," said Bock. "I thought if we could get a few more digs, a few more blocks and started to serve a little tougher, we could score a few more points."
Both teams had recorded 25 kills through the opening two sets of the match tonight, but Lehigh was hitting .316 after two sets while the Mids were hitting .133. However, over the last three sets, Navy totaled 43 kills and hit .288 while the Mountain Hawks posted 35 kills and hit .165. In the fifth set alone, Navy held a .161-.118 advantage in hitting percentage.
Individually after the first two sets, Fortner had totaled seven kills and three errors on 21 swings (.190), Cassel had three kills and two errors on eight attempts (.125) and Sylakowski had posted four kills and one error on eight attempts (.375). Over the last three sets, Fortner produced nine kills and no attack errors on 22 swings (.409), Cassel tallied seven kills and two errors on 13 attempts (.384) and Syalkowski notched nine kills without a hitting error on 14 attempts (.643).
In all, Fortner tallied 16 kills and hit .302, Sylakowski finished the match with 13 kills and a .545 attack percentage and Cassel totaled 10 kills and hit .286.
Ewert also saved her best for the end of the match. She had posted six kills and three errors on 17 swings (.176) after two sets, but finished the last three sets with 14 kills and seven errors on 35 attempts (.200). She tallied four of her match-high -- and career-high tying -- 20 kills in the fifth set alone.
Navy also picked up its blocking ability as the match went on. Lehigh held an 8.0-2.0 advantage in blocks after two sets, but the Mids outblocked the Mountain Hawks, 9.0-5.0, over the last three sets. Cassel had not recorded a block through two sets but finished with six blocks, Fortner recorded three of her four blocks in the final three sets, Sylakowski posted two of her three blocks in sets three through five and setter Alex Karika (Fr., Cranberry, Township, Pa.), who dished out 36 of her 58 assists in the last three sets, recorded all four of her blocks in the final three sets of play.
Additionally, after Lehigh held a 3-0 lead in service aces after the second set, Navy notched five aces and did not allow the Mountain Hawks an ace in the last three sets of the match.
Leading all players in the match in digs was Navy's Christy Rapp (Sr., Royal Oak, Mich.) with 17 digs. She was joined in double figures by Karika with 12 digs, while both Fortner and Loomis snared nine digs.
"I thought Christy and J.B. really turned things up on defense," said Bock, "and Alex Karika did a real good job of getting the ball to our hitters."
For Lehigh, both Poole and Van Streppen recorded 14 kills, Courtney McCutcheon grabbed 16 digs and Poole added seven blocks.