Oct. 11, 2013
WORCESTER, Mass. - Strong starts in all three sets allowed the Navy volleyball team to post a 25-18, 25-21, 25-13 victory over Holy Cross Friday night at the Holy Cross Field House in Worcester, Mass.
"Holy Cross is going to be a good team," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "They are young team with a good setter and hitters who have a lot of firepower. Combine that, along with this being such a tough place to play, and I am officially glad this match is over with."
Navy (7-9, 3-2 Patriot League) quickly jumped out to a 9-1 lead at the start of the first set. That lead would grow to as many as 10 points at 17-7. The Mids still held a 19-11 cushion when the Crusaders (6-12, 1-5) slowly sliced the margin in half at 21-17. An Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) kill gave the serve back to Navy, then a Holy Cross attack error and a service ace by Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) took Navy to set point with a 24-17 lead. Graf committed a service error on the ensuing play, but Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) answered with a kill to give the Mids the 1-0 lead.
"If it were not for that great start to the set," said Bock, "things would have gotten dicey for us at the end of the set."
The Mids hit a sizzling .385 in the opening set while limiting Holy Cross to a mark of .192.
Navy tried to separate itself from Holy Cross early in the second set as a 5-0 run by the Mids gave them a 9-5 lead. Three-straight points by the Crusaders made it a one-point difference between the teams, but Navy soon built a 13-8 lead. The score was 16-12 in favor of Navy when Holy Cross again went on a 3-0 run. From there, the teams played sideout volleyball until Holy Cross eventually scored on its own serve to tie the frame at 19-19.
After an Erin Fortner
(Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) kill followed by a kill by Holy Cross' Natalie Welsch made the score 20-20, Sylakowski blocked Welsch on the next play to give Navy a 21-20 lead. Sylakowski was involved in the ensuing two plays as she and Alex Karika
(So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) first teamed up for a block of Mandy Sifferlen, then Karika fed Sylakowski for a kill to give Navy a 23-20 lead. Sifferlen responded with a kill, but that was followed by another Karika-to-Sylakowski exchange that made the score 24-21 in favor of Navy. The Mids would take the 2-0 lead in sets when Karika and Cassel combined for a block on Sifferlen.
"Our middle hitters were really strong tonight," said Bock. "Kaite and Alex were just terrific for us."
After its strong hitting performance in the first set, Navy cooled off somewhat in the second set as it dropped to a mark of .094. However, Navy's defense held the Crusaders to a .000 attack percentage in the frame. Additionally, Navy scored a point on each of the 14 serves Holy Cross attempted in the set.
The third set was much like the first set in that the Mids scored five of the first six points of the set to take an early lead. Navy soon built advantages of 11-5 and 19-9 on its way to closing out the match. The Mids hit an impressive .520 (15 kills, 2 errors, 25 attempts) in the final set and held Holy Cross to a mark of .207 (11 kills, 5 errors, 29 attempts).
Navy connected on 40 kills in the match and hit .313, while Holy Cross tallied 31 kills and a .120 hitting percentage. The Mids, who entered the weekend leading the Patriot League in blocking average, recorded nine more blocks on the night (Holy Cross had four). Navy also snared 10 more digs than Holy Cross did (37-27) in the 70-minute match.
"The match turned into a ball control contest," said Bock. "Our serving and first contact advantage, along with our blocking, were the differences for us."
Fortner and Cassel led Navy in the match with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Both players were very efficient in their hitting performance as Cassel hit .500 and Fortner tallied a hitting percentage of .474. This included Fortner finishing the third set with a mark of .833 (5 kills, 0 errors, 6 attempts). Both players also had good defensive nights as Fortner snared eight digs and Cassel posted five blocks. Meanwhile, setter Karika finished the night with a strong statistical line of 30 assists, eight digs and four blocks.
Sifferlen led the Holy Cross offense with 10 kills.
Navy will now travel to West Point, N.Y., to face Army in a 7:30 p.m. match Saturday. Live statistics from the match will be available at NavySports.com, as will a link to the video ($9.95 fee) Army is producing from the match.