Volleyball Sweeps Bucknell, Runs Winning Streak to Four
Nov. 2, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Timely hitting and blocking along with consistent passing and setting added up to a three-set victory by the Navy volleyball team over Bucknell Saturday afternoon at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Mids posted a 25-18, 28-26, 25-16 victory over the Bison. It was the third league win recorded by Navy in a span of five days, and came less than 18 hours after the Mids had posted a key four-set win over Lehigh Friday night.
"There was no question about the effort of our team today," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "Obviously we have some precision things to work out with our first tempo offense. It really wasn't a pretty match on either side of the net. But it was terrific to be able to win a match against a good team in an absolute grind-it-out fashion."
Navy has now won each of its last four matches to raise its Patriot League record to 8-4 and its overall record to 12-12. The Mids are assured of at least a .500 finish in the Patriot League with four matches still remaining. Navy posted a 7-7 record in league play during the 2012 season. The last time the Mids recorded finishes of at least .500 in consecutive seasons was in the 2004 (8-6) and 2005 (10-4) campaigns.
Additionally, this is the first four-match winning streak by a Navy team since the 2008 season, as well as the first four-match winning streak in league play for the Mids since the 2005 season (accomplished twice that year).
Navy remains in fifth place in the Patriot League with two weeks left in the season. The Mids are one-half of a match behind Lehigh for the fourth and final berth in Patriot League Tournament. The two teams split the season series, with each winning in four sets.
"We have to use this as a springboard to the last two weeks of the regular season," said Bock. "The pieces are there for us if we can get all of our cylinders firing at once. That was not the case either today or Friday against Lehigh."
The Mids slowly inched their way out to early leads of 10-6 and 14-8 in the first set of today's match, but could never really put away the Bison (9-14, 2-11 Patriot League) until the very end of the set. Navy's lead was 20-15 when Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) knocked down a kill off of a set from Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.). Fortner then served to begin the next play, with a block by the Navy tandem of Karika and Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) ending it. Olivia Yeager (So., Lutz, Fla.) followed with a kill to make the score 23-16 in favor of the Mids. A Bucknell kill and a Sylakowski attack error made it 23-17, but Fortner notched another kill to take the Mids to set point. Maeve Drummey (So., Silver Spring, Md.) committed a service error, but Sylakowski posted a kill off of a feed by Star Steele (So., Tampa, Fla.) to end the set.
Bucknell started very fast in the second set, jumping out to a 6-2 lead -- with both of Navy's points coming on Bucknell service errors -- and resulting in a Navy timeout. The Bison expanded their lead out to seven points at 12-5 before the Mids closed to within three points at 14-11. Bucknell soon built a six-point lead at 19-13 when a Sylakowski kill gave the serve back to the Mids.
Sylakowski herself dropped back to serve, with the Mids scoring points right away on a bad set by the Bison and a block by the duo of Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) and Gaby Smith (Fr., Virginia Beach, Va.). After a Bucknell timeout, a Kristen Titley attack error made it a two-point margin at 19-17. The score would soon be tied at 19-19 on a kill by Smith and another block by the Cassel-Smith tandem. Navy took its first lead of the frame on a bad set by the Bison, and led 21-19 after another kill by Smith. Bucknell used its second timeout after that point, with Smith tallying a solo block coming out of the break. A Bison attack error would prove to be the final point in a 10-0 Navy run that gave the Mids a 23-19 advantage.
Sylakowski then committed a service error to give the serve back to Bucknell. Back-to-back attack errors by first Cassel and then Smith made it a one-point difference between the teams (23-22) and lead to a Navy timeout. Karika set Cassel for a kill to take the Mids to set point with a 24-22 lead, but attack errors by Smith and then Cassel tied the score at 24-24. Cassel committed another attack error to give the Bison the chance to serve for the set, but the opportunity ended when Fortner tallied a kill. Fortner herself was then blocked by Erika Eastley and Jordan Walker, with Yeager answering with a kill to tie the score at 26-26. Sylakowski posted a kill to give Navy a second chance to serve for the set, with Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) ending the point quickly with a service ace.
Navy's rhythm from the end of the second set carried over into the start of the third set. The score was tied at 2-2 when a 4-0 run by the Mids gave them a 6-2 cushion. That margin soon became more comfortable for Navy as it pushed the lead out to 10-4, 14-6 and 16-10. Another 3-1 run by the Mids gave them a 19-11 advantage, from which Navy was able to close out the set and the match.
After tallying five blocks in the first set, the Bison would record just three more over the remainder of the match. Conversely, Navy posted 11 of its 13 blocks over the last two sets.
The blocking by the two teams was only part of the strong defense played by both squads. Navy hit just .151 on the afternoon, with much of that coming in the third set when the Mids hit .333. Navy had hit just .089 through the second set, which included a mark of .000 in the second set. On the other side of the net, Bucknell posted negative hitting percentage numbers in sets one and three while tallying a .103 percentage in the second set to end the match with an overall mark of .009 (29 kills, 28 attack errors, 113 swings).
Additionally on defense, Navy held a 47-44 advantage in digs.
Fortner was the lone player on either team to reach double figures in kills for the match as she posted 12 of Navy's 37 kills. Smith and Yeager each contributed seven kills, with Sylakowski adding six kills. Only one of Navy's hitters tallied a hitting percentage of at least .200, and that was Yeager who finished exactly at .200.
Fortner also led Navy in digs as she snared a team-high 11. Drummey and Graf joined her in double figures with 10 digs apiece. Six Mids posted at least two blocks in the match. Cassel led all players on the squad with five, Graf, Karika and Sylakowski each chipped in four blocks, while Fortner and Yeager each added two blocks.
Defense was what kept Bucknell in the match, specifically the play of libero Katie Price, who grabbed 21 digs. Eastley led the Bison in blocks with six, but she had just two blocks over the last two sets. Offensively, Karen Campbell and Walker each posted six kills for the Bison while Eastly added five kills.
"Bucknell's defense was stellar," said Bock. "We could not put anything down. Someone who looks at the box score will see low hitting percentage numbers, but that was because of the great defense Bucknell played.
"We passed terrific today. We were `in system' most of the match. Their libero (Price) was great. If anyone who saw today's match knows volleyball, then they know what a great performance she had today."
Navy will step away from Patriot League play Tuesday night when the Mids play at Towson, then will play Friday night at Colgate.
Patriot League Standings
T1. 10-1 - Colgate (5 matches left)
T1. 10-1 - American (5)
3. 9-3 - Army (4)
4. 9-4 - Lehigh (3)
5. 8-4 - Navy (4)
6. 2-9 - Holy Cross (5)
T7. 2-10 - Loyola (4)
T7. 2-10 - Lafayette (4)
9. 2-11 - Bucknell (3)