Serving Sparks Volleyball to Win
ANNAPOLIS, Md. –– Timely serving by the Navy volleyball team keyed a couple of rallies to help the Mids stave off Lehigh in four sets Tuesday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Mids (17-3, 7-0) remained alone in first place in the Patriot League standings after posting the 25-19, 23-25, 25-14, 25-18 victory over the Mountain Hawks (14-7, 5-2).
“It was important for us to win an oddly tempoed match,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock. “This match had an odd tempo to it. It was important to win matches that don’t feel machine like.”
Maddi Sgattoni (Fr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) staked Navy to a 4-0 lead at the start of the first set, with the fourth point coming from an ace. Lehigh closed to within two points at 4-2 and 7-5 only to see Navy build a 15-6 advantage. The closest the Mountain Hawks could winnow the margin down to was five points at 20-15 and 21-16.
The Mids hit .286 in the opening set (12 kills and four attack errors) while holding the Mountain Hawks to a .000 percentage (eight kills, eight attack errors).
Navy was able to build leads of 6-2 and 11-6 at the start of the second set, but Lehigh found its rhythm from the service line and tied the score at 13-13 before going on a 5-0 run to take the lead at 21-18. Navy quickly notched the ensuing three points to tie the score at 21-21, but back-to-back points after a Lehigh timeout gave the Mountain Hawks a 23-21 lead. The Mids promptly called timeout, but a Lehigh kill took the visitors to set point with a 24-21 lead. Navy staved off two set points against it, but another kill by the Mountain Hawks gave them the set.
The dropped frame was just the second for the Mids in seven league matches this season, but Navy showed no hangover from the loss as it went on a 10-0 run behind the serving of Sgattoni to take a 10-1 lead early in the third set. The Mids would hold double-digit leads of 15-5, 18-8 and 19-9 on their way to taking the 2-1 lead in stanzas.
Lehigh answered the challenge and took early leads of 6-2, 8-4 and 13-9 in the fourth set. After a kill by Tara Dotzauer (Sr., Raleigh, N.C.) returned the serve to Navy, dropping back to the service line again was Sgattoni. Her final serve was with Navy holding a 15-13 lead. Navy scored points during the run on an ace, a Lehigh ball-handling error, an ace, a Dotzauer kill, an ace, and a solo block.
Back came the Mountain Hawks to within one point at 15-14, 16-15 and 19-18. A Lehigh service error returned the serve to the Mids, then a kill by Sgattoni followed by a block from the tandem of Katie Patrick (Jr., Aurora, Colo.) and Patricia Mattingly (Jr., New Albany, Ind.) pushed the lead to 22-18. Ally Spencer (Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.) dropped in an ace for the Mids, then another kill from Sgattoni took them to match point. Another Spencer ace closed out the contest.
Navy scored points on 32 of its 49 serves in the last two sets while limiting Lehigh to points on 15 of its 33 serves in that same two-set span. The Mids tallied eight of their nine aces in the match over the course of sets three and four while the Mountain Hawks tallied just one of their five aces in the last half of the match.
“Everything centered around serving,” said Bock. “We felt coming into the match that the team having the most success from the service line –– not necessarily with an ace but with being able to force the other team out of system –– would win. Both teams had good runs from the service line, but we had some really good successes at big moments late in sets.”
Navy as a team outhit Lehigh, .236-.106, in the match, which included a .227-.076 advantage in the last two sets. The Mids also held cushions of 67-64 in digs and 9-5 in blocks.
Sparking the serving prowess was Sgattoni, who finished with six of Navy’s nine aces (the school record for the most aces by an individual in a match is eight). She also added 10 kills and 10 digs to her stats line.
“Serving for me comes with being calm and being focused on the next point ahead,” said Sgattoni. “Instead of looking five points ahead, our team focuses on just the next point. When I go back to the serving line, that’s all I am thinking about. That’s what I have done since high school (the next point). I’m just trying to get them out of system so it works in favor of our team.
“I definitely think confidence plays a big role in that from the beginning. I was really just trying to get it over the net (early in the season). Later in the season coach Bock emphasized the importance of serving tough. That’s where we are winning a lot of our matches. If we miss just a little out of bounds, that’s okay and better than putting it into the middle of the net or giving the other team an easy serve.”
Sgattoni was one of three Mids to reach double figures in kills and one of three to tally at least 10 digs. Maggie Phillips (Sr., Leesburg, Va.) led Navy’s hitters with 15 kills and a .433 attack percentage, while Dotzauer ended the night with 11 kills. Pacing the Navy passers was Sydney Shearn (Jr., Louisville, Ky.) with 22 digs, while Patrick was effective in the front row with her seven blocks and six kills.
“Absolutely everything on defense revolves around Sydney,” said Bock. “Even if she is not touching the ball, she is organizing things really well. We didn’t have great ball control and neither did Lehigh. They are much, much better than we saw tonight. We have to get real ready before we play them again. There wasn’t a whole lot of control on either side of the net. Our defense at different times was centered around Sydney. She was organizing things so well that we did manage to finally outdig Lehigh by the end of the night.”
Having an all-around productive night was Mattingly. The setter finished the night with a career-high four blocks and a double-double of 43 assists and 10 digs.
Her assist on a kill by Dotzauer that gave the Mids a 14-13 lead in the second set was the 2,356th of her career, which broke the Navy record for the most career assists during the rally scoring era (2001-present). Marissa Watson held the record of 2,355 during her four-year career that concluded in 2008. Mattingly ended the evening with 2,378 career assists, a tally that places her fourth in Navy’s all-time history behind Heather Burwell (2,591, 1994-97), Nikki St. Clair (2,928, 1993-96) and Jessica Van Norman (3,391, 1999-2002). Mattingly also tied St. Clair for second place in school history for the most assists-digs double-doubles with 32. That duo trails only Van Norman’s total of 47.
“I had no idea that was coming up,” said Mattingly of the milestone. “The practice we have in the gym with our hitters is the reason behind it.”
Navy will play just one match this weekend, the last weekend of the first half of the league season, with that contest being the annual Star Match at Army West Point Saturday night.
Patriot League Standings (next league match)
1 – 7-0 – Navy (Saturday at Army)
2 – 5-1 – American (Friday at Bucknell)
3 – 5-2 – Lehigh (Friday vs. Army West Point)
4 – 4-2 – Army West Point (Friday at Lehigh)
5 – 3-3 – Bucknell (Friday vs. American)
T6 – 2-5 – Loyola (Friday vs. Holy Cross)
T6 – 2-5 – Lafayette (Friday vs. Colgate)
8 – 1-5 – Colgate (Friday at Lafayette)
9 – 0-6 – Holy Cross (Friday at Loyola)