Oct. 29, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) led or shared the Navy lead in five statistical categories to help the Navy volleyball team edge Loyola in three very close sets, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22, Tuesday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis.
"I can summarize my thoughts on tonight's match with eight simple words: I'm glad Erin Fortner is on our side," said Navy head coach Larry Bock.
After Loyola (5-17, 2-8 Patriot League) scored the opening three points of the first set, Navy (10-12, 6-4) answered with a 7-1 run to take a 7-4 advantage. Navy quickly expanded its margin out to 11-5 before Loyola winnowed it down to two points at both 14-12 and 15-13. Navy went on a 3-0 run to take a five-point lead before building a seven-point lead at 22-15. Shortly thereafter, a Fortner kill took the Mids to set point with a 24-17 advantage.
A kill by Loyola's Jac Bullock returned the serve to the Greyhounds with the visitors trailing, 24-18. Navy's passing started to breakdown and it didn't take long for the Greyhounds to close to within one point of the Mids at 24-23. After a Navy timeout, Gaby Smith (Fr., Virginia Beach, Va.) sent a screaming line drive toward the back end line that a Loyola defender could not get completely away from in time before touching it to end the first set.
Loyola was the team to separate itself slightly in the early part of second set. The score was tied at 7-7 when a 4-1 run gave the Greyhounds a 12-8 lead. Their advantage would soon grow to as many as five points at 18-13. Navy quickly chipped away at the deficit and used a 4-0 run to tie the frame at 19-19.
After the teams traded kills to make the score 20-20, Loyola notched consecutive points on a kill by Bullock and a block by Mindy Maloney. Navy responded with back-to-back kills from the tandem of Smith and Fortner to tie the set at 22-22. Malony posted a kill coming out of a Loyola timeout, but a Loyola attack error and a kill from Fortner gave Navy a 24-23 lead. After a strong serve by McKenzie Bailey (Fr., Dublin, Ohio) helped Fortner attain her kill, she committed a service error to tie the set for the 10th time. However, Bailey's error was followed by a service error from Loyola's Micah Duzey that gave the serve right back to the Mids with a 25-24 lead. Navy would close out the set when Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) knocked down a Loyola overpass.
Loyola held a .250-.163 advantage over Navy in hitting percentage in the first set, but the percentages would be reversed in the second set as the Mids hit .219 and the Greyhounds hit .167.
Navy would go on to hit a sizzling .524 on 12 kills and one attack error on 21 attempts in the third set and hold Loyola to a mark of .217, but the set went right down to the wire for a third time.
The Mids held an 11-10 lead when a 4-1 run gave them a 15-11 advantage. The cushion would soon grow to 17-12, but that was followed by Loyola going on a 5-0 run of its own to tie the set at 17-17. The score would also be tied at each successive point through and including 21-21 at which time Smith posted back-to-back kills to give the Mids a 23-21 lead. Loyola sliced the margin in half with a kill by Bullock, but then Fortner took Navy to match point with what would be her final kill of the night. The match would end when Loyola setter Lauren Anderson was whistled for being in the net while trying to set a pass that drew her into the twine.
"The way we won tonight is a testament to our team and the toughness coefficient they are building," said Bock. "We are in the middle of exam week and this is an exhausted team. They are mentally exhausted and have so much other stuff on their minds right now. They compartmentalized so well tonight. There were times tonight where mere mortals would have allowed the match to blow up for them."
Navy posted 42 kills and hit .260 on the night, while Loyola finished with 36 kills and a .213 attack percentage. Both teams finished with four aces and seven blocks, Navy committed 10 service errors to Loyola's nine, and the Greyhounds held a 33-30 lead over the Mids in digs.
"The match simply came down to our being able to get a few more kills," said Bock.
Fortner led Navy with 16 kills, 31 attempts and a .452 attack percentage, while tying for the Navy lead in service aces (one) and blocks (four). She also was second on the team overall and tied for first on the squad among hitters with six digs.
"Erin had a pretty darn good three-set match," understated Bock. "It is no secret to anyone that we are looking for her, but she still finds a way to get things done."
Joining her with double figures kills was Smith, who tied a career high with 10 in the match while hitting .300.
"Gaby pulled things together to have a good match after a rough start," said Bock.
Bullock paced Loyola's offense with 10 kills and a .389 attack percentage.
Navy will be back in the Wesley A. Brown Field House for a pair of matches this weekend. The Mids will play host to Lehigh Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Bucknell Saturday at 4 p.m.