Volleyball Finishes Strong to Win Match, Clinch Playoff Berth
LEWISBURG, Pa. –– After a rough second set, the Navy volleyball team won sets three and four to defeat Bucknell, 25-17, 15-25, 25-22, 25-21, Friday night at Davis Gym in Lewisburg, Pa. The victory by the Mids (20-6, 10-3 Patriot League) over the Bison (12-13, 6-7) clinched a berth in the Patriot League tournament for Navy.
The Mids have now qualified for the post-season tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004 and 2005, and will be making their third appearance in the event in the last four years. Navy also has won 20 matches for the second year in a row.
“The most important thing right now is that we put a tough October and some uneven performances during the month behind us,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock. “We want to get back to consistently doing what we did tonight, and that is finish strong. If we can do that and get some of our confidence and swagger going into the playoffs, we are capable of making some noise. We have to continue running the race and not celebrate that we reached a mile marker (qualifying for the playoffs). We still have lots of work to do.”
Navy never trailed in the first set, but held a precarious lead of 9-7 before stretching the margin out to 13-7, 16-9 and 19-10. Bucknell was able to close to within 20-15, but back-to-back points by the Mids allowed them to regain control of the set.
Sarena Seelbach (So., Chapel Hill, N.C.) was especially strong for the Mids in the first set as she totaled six kills and zero attack errors on nine swings.
Navy outhit Bucknell .394-.226 in the first set, but the tables were turned in the second set as the Bison held a .393-.051 hitting advantage over the Mids. Bucknell built an early 5-2 lead and just kept extending the lead out to 15-9 and 19-12 before evening the frames at one for each team.
“We played okay in the second set,” said Bock, whose Mids were held to their lowest point total in a league set this year in the frame (previous low was 20 points) and the second lowest of the season, “but Bucknell was just on fire. They hit the ball hard and dug everything we hit to them.”
Navy responded after the 10-minute break by taking a 7-2 lead at the start of the third set. Bucknell answered and took leads of 11-8, 14-11, 15-12 and 16-13. The Mids soon went on a 3-0 run to take an 18-17 lead of their own. After the Bison tied the score at 18-18, consecutive attack errors by the home team gave Navy a 20-18 edge. The teams played sideout volleyball through Navy taking a 22-20 lead, then a kill by Tara Dotzauer (Sr., Raleigh, N.C.) gave the Mids a 23-20 lead. Bucknell promptly recorded back-to-back points on a kill and a block to slice the lead down to 23-22, then a block by the tandem of Dotzauer and Katie Patrick (Jr., Aurora, Colo.) took the Mids to set point. Maggie Phillips (Sr., Leesburg, Va.) recorded a kill to close out the stanza for the Mids.
“It won’t show up in the box score,” said Bock, “but Emily Solis (So., Leesburg, Va.) was the difference maker in the third set. We were down three points when she went onto the court, and her sheer presence settled things down for us. She had some solid first contacts out there. That was the line of demarcation in the set and the match. She really doused a fire.”
The teams played point-for-point over the first 15 points of the fourth set until Navy edged its way out to a 13-8 lead. Bucknell would close to within one point at 16-15 when a Phillips kill started a 6-0 run that gave the Mids a 22-15 advantage. The Bison could only narrow the margin down to as few as three points at 22-19, then teams traded the next five points with that span capped by Dotzauer’s sixth kill (on 10 attempts) in the set to finish the match.
“This was an important match for us,” said Bock. “Not just being able to get the win, but earning it the way we did after being challenged on the road in a hostile environment by a team playing very well.”
Navy held statistical advantages over Bucknell in kills (60-48) and hitting percentage (.239-.209), with the Bison leading the Mids in both digs (70-54) and blocks (4-2). Both teams committed 21 attack errors and each dropped in six aces.
Navy had terrific balance on offense as four players reached double figures in kills and another Mid totaled nine kills. Especially effective were middle hitters Seelbach and Patrick with 14 and 12 kills, respectively. Patrick also hit .450 and Seelbach, whose 14 kills tied her career high, finished the match with a .257 attack percentage. Joining the duo in double figures were Dotzauer with 12 kills and Maddi Sgattoni (Fr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) with 10. Dotzauer also hit .407 and Sgattoni dropped in three of Navy’s six aces.
“Katie was really good tonight,” said Bock. “Whenever we needed a sideout, she was right in the middle of us converting. And this may have been a coming of age match for Sarena.”
Defensively, Sydney Shearn (Jr., Louisville, Ky.) snared 15 digs, Sgattoni grabbed 11 digs to notch her ninth double-double of the year, Patrick tallied five blocks and both Dotzauer and Seelbach posted four blocks.
Navy will remain on the road for a Saturday evening match at Lafayette. First serve from the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa., is slated for just after 5 p.m.
Patriot League Standings (Remaining Matches)
1. 12-1 American (Nov. 4 at Lehigh, Nov. 10 vs. Colgate, Nov. 12 vs. Bucknell)
T2. 10-3 Army (Nov. 5 at Colgate, Nov. 10 vs. Lehigh, Nov. 12 at Navy)
T2. 10-3 Navy (Nov. 4 at Lafayette, Nov. 7 at Lehigh, Nov. 12 vs. Army)
4. 8-5 Lehigh (Nov. 4 vs. American, Nov. 7 vs. Navy, Nov. 10 at Army)
5. 6-6 Colgate (Nov. 4 vs. Holy Cross, Nov. 5 at Army, Nov. 10 at American, Nov. 12 vs. Lafayette)
6. 6-7 Bucknell (Nov. 4 vs. Loyola, Nov. 10 at Holy Cross, Nov. 12 at American)
7. 3-10 Loyola (Nov. 4 at Bucknell, Nov. 7 vs. Lafayette, Nov. 11 at Holy Cross)
8. 2-11 Lafayette (Nov. 4 vs. Navy, Nov. 7 at Loyola, Nov. 12 vs. Colgate)
9. 1-12 Holy Cross (Nov. 4 at Colgate, Nov. 10 vs. Bucknell, Nov. 11 vs. Loyola)