Oct. 25, 2013
EASTON, Pa. -- A balanced offense and defense that saw four players reach double figures in kills and three haul in at least 10 digs led to the Navy volleyball team posting a four-set win over Lafayette Friday night at the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa. The 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-14 victory by the Mids was their over the Leopards in the venue since 2009.
"We played a lot of good volleyball tonight," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "Lafayette really ramped up their serving, and they had a nice crowd that was getting on our players a little bit. But that was good for us. It takes a special team to win on the road."
Navy (9-12, 5-4 Patriot League) never trailed in the narrow first-set win, but was unable to put away the Leopards (9-12, 1-9) either. The Mids jumped out to an 8-4 lead before building what would prove to be their largest lead of the set at 16-11. The Navy advantage was soon 17-13 before a 4-0 run by Lafayette tied the frame. That led to a Navy called timeout.
Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) fed Gaby Smith (Fr., Virginia Beach, Va.) for a kill coming out of the break, then a Lafayette attack error was followed by Karika setting Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) for a kill and a timeout by the Leopards. Katie Syalkowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) kept the Navy run going as she immediately dropped in a service ace after the stoppage in play. Karika promptly set Smith to conclude both the ensuing play and a 5-0 Navy run.
Lafayette winnowed the margin first down to two points as 23-21 before another Cassel kill took the Mids to set point with a 24-21 lead. After a Lafayette timeout, the Leopards staved off two set points against them with consecutive kills by Karissa Ciliento. Lafayette went back to Ciliento on the next play, but this time Cassel and Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) combined for a block to give the Mids the first set.
The score may have been tied just once in the first set, but it was tied nine times -- and the lead changed hands four times -- in the second set. The score was tied at 10-10 when Lafayette ran off the next six points. The Leopards still held a 20-17 lead when a kill by Sylakowski, a service ace from Maeve Drummey
(So., Silver Spring, Md.) and a kill by Smith knotted the score at 20-20.
The teams traded various errors over the next four points to make the score 22-22 when Lafayette's Samantha Volk dropped in a service ace, which led to a Navy timeout. Karika found Fortner for a kill to tie the score at 23-23 and give the serve back to the Mids. Karika then gave it right back to Lafayette on a service error, which was followed by an attack error by Fortner to close out the frame.
"I felt we were in control of the whole match, even in the second set," said Bock. "What hurt us in the second set were all of our errors. They were unforced, panicked, unfocused errors that we can fix."
Navy quickly took control of the third set as the Mids tallied the opening six points of the frame. The advantage for the Mids didn't dip below four points and soon their margin increased to 19-12. Lafayette closed to both 20-16 and 21-17 before a kill by Cassel, an ace by Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.), a kill by Olivia Yeager (So., Lutz, Fla.) and a block by the tandem of Fortner and Sylakowski finished off play in the set.
The Mids held a slim 5-4 lead in the fourth set before they scored the next nine points to take a 14-4 lead. After a Lafayette sideout, a Sylakowski kill returned the serve to the Mids. Navy would lead by double figures over the remainder of the set.
Navy more than doubled Lafayette's hitting percentage as the Mids posted a mark of .255 and limited the Leopards to a mark of .115. In addition to Navy holding a 55-36 advantage in kills, this hitting percentage cushion was aided by the Mids recording 13 service aces in the match and allowing the Leopards to notch seven aces.
"I can't remember us serving as hard as we did tonight," said Bock. "(Assistant coach) Tim Smith brought a radar gun to practice today, and we were checking the speed on their serves. It just looked like we were serving much harder tonight. We had a few more service errors (15) than normal, but they were serious serves we were sending over the net."
Fortner led Navy with 14 kills, while Cassel notched 12 kills and just one error on 18 swings for a .611 attack percentage and fellow middle hitter Sylakowski posted 11 kills and three errors on 16 attempts for a .500 percentage. Also reaching double figures in kills was Smith with 10, while Yeager nearly reached double digits with her seven kills. In addition to dishing the ball around to her hitters, Karika dropped in five aces and snared 10 digs. Meanwhile, Fortner posted a double-double with 12 digs to go along with four aces, while Cassel and Sylakowski each notched three blocks on the night. Rounding out the efforts of the Navy defense was Graf, who hauled in 22 digs.
"We needed the balance tonight," said Bock. "Gaby had a monster match and our two middles had broke out with their play. Alex did a nice job of distributing the ball."
Lafayette also showed good balance across its offense and defense. Ciliento led the Leopards with 14 kills, Brianne Giangiobbe added 12 kills, Volk grabbed 12 digs and both Lauren Pisauro and Sarah Moult totaled 11 digs.
Navy will be home in the Wesley A Brown Field House for a trio of matches next week, starting Tuesday night with a 7 p.m. match against Loyola.