Nov. 1, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A slow start in the first set by the Navy volleyball team quickly gave way to three strong sets as the Midshipmen posted a four-set win over Lehigh Friday night at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Midshipmen defeated the Mountain Hawks by set scores of 15-25, 25-19, 25-13 and 25-23.
The win moves Navy to within one victory of Lehigh in the Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks currently hold down fourth place with a league mark of 8-4, while the Mids are in fifth place with a 7-4 record.
Lehigh defeated Navy in four sets the first time the teams met this season.
Only the top-four teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the Patriot League Tournament. The Mids have five matches remaining and the Mountain Hawks will play four more times against league competition.
"What is so great to everybody was that we were in a `must win' scenario tonight and we came away with a really important win," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "Our passing and serving were right in the middle of it all."
Lehigh trailed Navy, 10-9, in the first set before a service error by the Mids tied the frame at 10-10. Claire Bradshaw dropped back to serve for the Mountain Hawks and helped them score the next five points. The teams traded sideouts to make the score 16-11, then Courtney McCutchan served three-straight points for Lehigh to give the visitors a 19-11 cushion, which it held onto for the rest of the set.
"I thought we were okay after the first set," said Bock. "We just had 13 hitting errors. No one is going to win with 13 hitting errors in a set."
The second set was a mirror image of the first set. Lehigh held a 10-9 lead when a kill by McKenzie Bailey (Fr., Dublin, Ohio) tied the score at 10-10. Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) toed the service line and remained there until the Mids had taken a 14-10 lead. The teams traded sideouts to give the serve back to Navy with the Mids in front, 15-11. The Navy advantage would soon grow to 17-11 and 19-12 as the Mids picked up the second-set victory.
Set number three was tied at 3-3 when a 4-0 by Navy gave it a lead it would not relinquish. A Lehigh sideout made it a 7-4 lead, but Olivia Yeager
(So., Lutz, Fla.) posted kills on consecutive plays to boost the Mids out to a 9-4 lead. Lehigh closed to within four points of Navy on several occasions, with the last coming at 14-10. That was followed by Navy scoring four of the next five points to build an 18-11 advantage before taking a double-digit lead at 22-12 and winning the third set.
The first three sets saw the score tied a total of 10 times. It would be tied 11 times in the fourth set alone. The largest lead for either team in the frame came when the Mids build a 20-17 lead, but Lehigh quickly tied the score at 21-21. Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) posted a kill for Navy to break the tie, but that was followed by a kill from Lehigh's Ana Vhrel to tie the score at 22-22. Fortner notched another kill, only to see Vhrel again answer with a kill of her own to tie the score once again.
A lengthy rallied ensued to see which team would take a 24-23 advantage, and it would be Navy taking the lead when a cross-court attempt to the back-left corner of the court by Caroline Jacobs (Sr., Arnold, Md.) was whistled inbounds. That sent Fortner back to serve for the match.
McCutchan dug Fortner's serve and passed it to setter Amy Matula. Matula sent the ball back to Matula for an attempt, which was blocked back to the Lehigh side of the net by the Navy defenders. Matula quickly set Kaylynn Genemaras, who hit the ball toward the middle of Navy's side of the court. Graf flung herself to the ball and sent it careening toward the right side of the court just in front of the net. Unable to make a clean set of the ball, Karika lunged up and away from her to bat the ball with one hand and send it over the net. The ball found a seam in the Lehigh defense and it quickly fell to the court to end the match.
"We were able to get into a better rhythm in the last three sets," said Bock. "Karika put up some really hittable balls.
"We served really well, and Lehigh always serves well so it was a good night for us to pass well. I think Caroline's contacts were magnified because they were coming from Caroline. She is energy personified."
Navy committed 13 attack errors in the first set, but had just 12 attack errors over the course of the last three sets. Conversely, Lehigh had just two attack errors in the first set before committing 18 over the rest of the match. The Mountain Hawks held a .207 to (-).043 advantage in hitting percentage in the first set, with the Mids holding a .299 to a .135 cushion over the remainder of the evening.
In all, Navy's offense posted 55 kills and a .195 hitting percentage while holding Lehigh to 41 kills and a hitting percentage of .150. The Mids also held slight leads over the Mountain Hawks in aces (4-2), digs (63-62) and blocks (8-5).
"I have to give credit to my assistant coaches," said Bock. "Kait Kozak made some critical blocking adjustments, and Tim Smith was calling every sideout play after timeouts. I think he was 100 percent on his calls."
Fortner began the match by tallying four kills and four errors on 22 swings in the first two sets combined. However, she notched 12 kills and just three errors on 26 attempts (.346) over the last two sets to finish the match with 16 kills and a .188 hitting percentage.
"Erin seemed to get the pop back in her swing as the match went on," said Bock. "Really the whole gym was feeding off of the play our Erin and Caroline, our seniors."
Yeager put together one of her better performances of the season with a statistical line consisting of 12 kills, a .235 hitting percentage and three blocks. Rounding out the trio of Mids to tally double-digit kills was Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah), with 11. Also having an effective night with Graf, who accrued 23 digs, seven assists and a pair of service aces.
Lehigh's offense was led by Vhrel with 14 kills and a .455 hitting percentage.
Navy will be right back on the Wesley A. Brown Field House court Saturday when the Mids play host to Bucknell in a 4 p.m. match.
"We have to follow-up tonight's match with another strong performance Saturday against a Bucknell team that has been playing really well lately," said Bock. "Our `must win' scenario continues."