Oct. 22, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- An error-plagued Navy volleyball team dropped a 25-23, 25-16, 28-26 decision to Towson Tuesday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis.
The final box score would show the Mids (8-12) committing 41 errors on the night while the Tigers (7-19) committed just 27 errors.
"It was a match where we were in control," said Navy head coach Larry Bock, "but it was a negative control. There were so many errors. Many of them were aggressive errors, but they were errors nonetheless.
"Success is a poor teacher; this match is the flip side of that. This is a terrific learning opportunity for us."
The loss marred one of the best performances of the season for Navy's Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.). The team captain pounded down 18 kills -- nearly half of Navy's 39 -- led Navy with a .302 attack percentage and snared a team-high 11 digs.
"What a great night for Erin," said Bock. "That was one of the best three-set performances we have seen in this gym. To average six kills a set while also leading us in hitting percentage and digs, that's an impressive night."
The two teams played sideout volleyball for the majority of the first set. The lead would change hands six times and the score would be tied on 13 occasions. Towson held a 20-19 lead when a Fortner kill tied the score at 20-20. Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) dropped back to serve for the Mids and she would help Navy produce three-straight points on a block from Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.), a kill -- off an assist from Graf -- by McKenzie Bailey (Fr., Dublin, Ohio) and a ball-handling error on Towson. That gave Navy a 23-20 lead, but a Graf service error cut the Navy advantage down to 23-21 and led to Towson's Saitaua Iosia moving to the service line.
Navy was unable to get a handle on her jump serves, and very quickly a Navy overpass led to Towson's Candace Steadman recording a kill on a blocking error by Sylakowski to make it a one-point margin. The score would be tied when another overpass off of the serve led to a kill by Haley Pa'akaula. That led to a timeout by the Mids. Navy committed yet another overpass after the serve, but this time dug a Towson attack and had a swing of its own that the Tigers snared. That would lead to a kill by Victoria Williams to give Towson a 24-23 lead and lead to another Navy timeout. The teams traded several attempts after the next Iosia serve, with the play and first set ending on a kill by Pa'akaula.
"We had a critical service error," said Bock. "We didn't recover from that until midway through the third set."
After scoring the last five points of the first set, Towson carried its momentum into the second set by rattling off six of the first seven points of the frame. The Mids never found their footing in the set and could only close to as few as four points (7-3) while trailing by as many as 10 (16-6) to fall behind 2-0 in sets.
Towson started the third set with a 5-2 run, but back-to-back Navy points made it a one-point set. The Tigers responded with a 5-0 run to take a 10-4 advantage. There was still a five-point difference between the teams at 13-8 when Navy went on a 5-0 run of its own to tie the score at 13-13. The score would also be tied at 15-15 and 16-16 when a 4-1 run by the Tigers gave them a 20-17 lead.
Raena Borcuk (Fr., Twin Peaks, Calif.) notched a kill for the Mids, then Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) and Caroline Jacobs (Sr., Arnold, Md.) combined for a bock of Pa'akaula to pull the Mids to within 20-19. The very next play saw Jacobs join with blocking sub Carmen Sturdifen (Fr., Chase City, Va.) for a block on Williams to tie the score at 20-20. Jacobs, who earlier in the set recorded a service ace, made her presence felt on a third-straight play as her kill gave Navy a 21-20 advantage. After a Towson timeout, Sylakowski returned to the service line and she dropped in an ace to make the score 22-20 in favor of the Mids.
Pa'akaula answered with consecutive kills to tie the score at 22-22, with her latter swing leading to a Navy timeout. Paige Sekerak would promptly record an ace of her own to give Towson a 23-22 lead, but an attack error by Pa'akaula tied the score once again. Pa'akaula made up for her previous error by knocking down a kill to take Towson to match point with a 24-23 lead. Karika went back to Fortner on the next play, and her kill knotted the score once again, then the Karika-to-Fortner exchange worked on the very next play to give Navy a 25-24 advantage. Lindsay Flaherty would post a kill for the Tigers to stave off Navy's first chance to serve for the set, but another Fortner kill gave the Mids a second chance at it. Flaherty again ended Navy's hopes of winning the set with another kill, then Fortner pushed a ball wide for just her fifth attack error on 43 swings. Towson converted this opportunity to win the match when Iosia knocked down a kill.
Navy committed 21 attack errors, eight service errors, five receiving errors, six blocking errors and one ball-handling error. On the other side of the net, Towson totaled 13 attack errors, three service errors, six receiving errors, one blocking error and four ball-handling errors.
Towson outhit the Mids, .289-.167, and held slim advantages of 41-39 in kills, 41-35 in digs and 5-4 in blocks.
In addition to Fortner's performance, classmate Jacobs was 2-for-2 in attempts, had one ace and added two blocks in very short playing time down the stretch of the third set.
"Our seniors were great," said Bock. "Caroline brought so much energy to the court. She really made the maximum out of her minimal court time."
Iosia and Pa'akaula each recorded 11 kills to lead Towson's offense.
Navy will return to Patriot League play Friday night when the Mids play at Lafayette in a 7 p.m. match.