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Volleyball Again Rallies for Impressive Win

Erin Fortner

Sept. 29, 2012

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - For the second time in less than 20 hours, the Navy volleyball team rallied to win a match after dropping the first two sets of its contest. The weekend began with the Mids rallying to defeat Lehigh in five sets on Friday night. Then, Saturday afternoon at the Wesley A. Brown Field House, Navy posted a 12-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-6 victory over Lafayette.

"This was a very profitable match and weekend for us in many ways," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "It was fun to see this team keep their energy this weekend, especially when they were coming off of exam week. We know they are exhausted. This is a credit to them for becoming a very tough, resilient team."

Friday's result marked the second consecutive season in which Navy had dug itself out of a 0-2 hole in sets to win a match. The previous time the Mids had done so was during the 2005 season, a campaign that also saw Navy rally to win a pair of matches after having lost the opening two sets, a feat the Mids equaled this weekend.

Lafayette (8-7, 1-3 Patriot League) tried to take control of the opening frame fairly quickly. The Leopards built an 8-3 lead only to see Navy (7-9, 3-1) climb back into the set at 11-8. However, Lafayette scored the next five points of the set to separate itself from the Mids.

The Leopards outhit the Mids .636-.190 in the first set and successfully recorded a sideout on 11 of Navy's 12 serves (91%) while the Mids tallied a sideout on just 11 of Lafayette's 25 serves (43%).

Navy had a much better start to the second set as it was the team to take an 11-7 advantage. The Mids would maintain a very slim cushion before taking a 20-18 lead. The Leopards answered by quickly tallying the next three points to take a 21-20 advantage. After a Navy kill, a Navy attack error and a Lafayette service error made the score 22-22, the Leopards closed out the set with a kill, a block and a kill.

Lafayette seemed intent on closing out the match with the way it began the third set. The Leopards very quickly raced out to a 7-1 lead. However, the Mids immediately matched that 7-1 run to tie the score at 8-8. After the teams traded the next two points, back-to-back kills by the Mids gave Navy an 11-9 lead. A Navy service error sliced the lead in half, but a Navy kill and a Lafayette hitting error gave Navy a 13-10 lead. Lafayette tallied the ensuing point on a kill, which was followed by a 4-0 run by Navy that gave the Mids a 17-11 cushion. The closest Lafayette could winnow the margin down to was four points (15-11) as Navy picked up the third set.

Navy finally put together a great start to a set in the fourth frame as the Mids took leads of 6-1 and 9-2 before extending the margin out to 17-9, 18-10 and 21-12. Lafayette climbed right back into the set as it was able to close to first three points at 23-20 and then two points at 24-22. A kill from Navy setter Alex Karika (Fr., Cranberry Township, Pa.) would close out the set for the Mids and force a fifth set for the fourth time in the last five matches between the teams.

Lafayette tallied back-to-back points early in the decisive fifth set to take a 3-2 lead. Navy responded by scoring the next seven points to build a 9-3 advantage in the frame. Karika fed Case Trimble (So., Orlando, Fla.) for a kill to start the run, then Trimble and Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah) teamed up for a block to give Navy a 4-3 lead. Katie Sylakowski (Fr., Escondido, Calif.) posted a kill and then a service ace to extend the margin out to 6-3. Back-to-back kills from Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) and Trimble made the score 8-3 before a setting error by Lafayette closed out the run.

Lafayette regained the serve when Cassel was whistled for a blocking error, but a service error immediately gave the Mids the serve with a 10-4 lead. The teams traded the next two points on a Lafayette kill and a block by Cassel, then another ball-handling miscue by the Leopards gave Navy a 12-5 lead. Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) followed with a Navy kill after a Lafayette overpass, then Cassel knocked down a kill to take the Mids to match point. Fortner barely missed ending the match when her attempt danced just wide of the sideline, but she connected on her next attempt to give the Mids the victory.

"This match had a very strange rhythm to it," said Bock. "Lafayette came out and played extremely well at the start of the match, and we did not. Then things turned around and we played some real good volleyball late in the match."

The fifth set was quite a turnaround from the first set. After Lafayette dominated the sideout statistics in the first set, the Mids successfully posted a sideout on six of Lafayette's seven serves (85%) while limiting the Leopards to a 35% sideout rate (5 of 14). The Mids also hit .368 in the final set and held the Leopards to just a .200 attack percentage.

Lafayette held advantages in hitting percentage (.382-.145) and kills (26-19) through two sets of play. However, Navy posted 38 kills and hit .326 over the last three sets while holding the Leopards to 25 kills and a three-set attack percentage of .089. Additionally, Navy had recorded 11 attack errors in the first two sets before totaling eight attack errors in all over the final three sets.

Navy would post 57 kills and hit .259 on the afternoon, while Lafayette recorded 51 kills and hit .200. The Mids also held overall statistical advantages over the Leopards for the match in assists (55-46), digs (64-57) and blocks (8.0-4.0).

Individually, Ewert, Fortner and Sylakowski each knocked down nine kills over the final three sets of play after having combined for 16 kills in sets one and two. Ewert hit .320 (9 kills, 1 error, 25 swings) over the last three sets, Fortner hit .227 (9-4-22) in sets three through five and Sylakwowski hit .600 (9-0-15) in the last three sets.

Overall for the match, Ewert drilled a match-high 16 kills and hit .333, Fortner tallied 14 kills and hit .229 while Sylakowski produced 12 kills and hit .478. Meanwhile, Trimble did not take to the court until the third set, but still recorded six kills and hit .200 over the final three sets.

Defensively, Cassel was a presence at the net for the Mids with four blocks, while Christy Rapp (Sr., Royal Oak, Mich.) snared a match-high 23 digs to lead the Navy passers. Additionally for the Mids, Karika notched her second double-double of the weekend with 47 assists and 10 digs, while J.B. Loomis (So., Havertown, Pa.) bettered her performance of Friday night by one dig with her total of 10 on Saturday.

"Katie and Carolyn played with real broad shoulders today," said Bock, "and Erin continues to take on a big offensive load for us. And once again, Case came off the bench today and did her job well."

Karissa Ciliento led Lafayette with 12 kills, while Katy Rooney posted 11 kills and hit .429.

Navy will now take to the road for each of the next five and seven of their next eight matches. That stretch begins Friday night when Navy plays at American.



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