Volleyball Tops Army in Five Sets
ANNAPOLIS, Md. –– Katie Patrick (Sr., Aurora, Colo.) registered her third kill in the fifth set on match point to close out a dramatic victory for the Navy volleyball team over Army West Point Sunday afternoon before an overflow crowd at the Wesley A. Brown Field House in Annapolis. The Mids (22-7, 12-4 Patriot League) posted an 18-25, 25-23, 25-22, 16-25, 15-12 victory over the Black Knights (18-11, 11-5) in a match lasting nearly two and one-half hours.
The match, which took place on the final day of the Patriot League’s regular season, meant nothing in terms of who either team would face in the first round of the league tournament. The Mids and Black Knights were slotted to square off again Saturday at 5 p.m. in the semifinal round of the event that will be played at Bender Arena on the American campus in Washington, D.C., no matter the result of today’s contest. For standings, however, the result gives Navy sole possession of second place in the nine-team league and places Army in third place. Navy last finished as high as solo second in 1999 when it shared the regular season title, with the Mids also ending the 2004 season tied for second place in the final standings.
“We really needed this,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock. “This was as much a program win as a team win. We needed to get into a brutally hard match against a really good team and figure out how to win. That was really important. It is not good for coaching lifespans, but it was really important that we got into a donnybrook and figured out a way to get match point.
“Hat’s off to Army for really representing the United States Military Academy so well with all of the Cadets they brought down, as well as to all of the members of the Brigade of Midshipmen for their equal efforts. It was an incredible atmosphere and so special for the players on both teams to play in front of a crowd like this. It was a great showcase for our sport.”
“Today was the culmination of a lot of hard work this season,” said Navy team captain Tara Dotzauer (Sr., Raleigh, N.C.). “We’ve lost a lot of tough fifth sets. This was our chance to prove the hard work was paying off. We know we will see them (Army) again in a few days, and we know we have to keep improving.”
Army outhit Navy .306-.154 in the first set, but the Black Knights were unable to separate from the Mids until very late in the frame. The visitors held an 18-17 lead before going on a 5-0 run to build a 23-17 advantage and win the opening set.
That first set was tied 10 times, with the score being tied nine times in the second set. In this frame, however, it was Navy that went on a little run with an 18-17 lead. A block by the tandem of Patrick and Maddi Sgattoni (Fr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) gave the Mids a 19-17 lead, then a kill by Sgattoni pushed the lead to 20-17 and lead to an Army timeout. The Black Knights responded after a break with a kill (20-18), but Patrick answered with a kill to take the lead back to three points (21-18). The teams exchanged sideouts (22-19), then Dotzauer notched a kill to extend the cushion out to four points at 23-19. Army promptly went on a 3-0 run to close to within one point at 23-22. The Mids went back to Dotzauer to post their 24th point of the set, and then again to record the team’s 25th point and tie the proceedings at one set each.
Dotzauer had totaled eight kills through the first two sets of play, then would post six kills in the third set to help Navy take the 2-1 advantage. The score was knotted at 10-10 when the Mids scored six of the next seven points to build a 16-11 lead. Playing well in that stretch was Dorothy Murray (Sr., Harbor City, Calif.), who entered the set at right-side hitter –– Dotzauer’s position –– when the Mids went to a two-setter, two right-side hitter rotation. She posted both a solo block and a kill to account for two of Navy’s six points in that stretch.
The Navy lead would soon be 19-14 and 20-16, but Army accounted for the next five points to take a 21-20 lead. Murray notched another solo block to tie the set, then Sarena Seelbach (So., Chapel Hill, N.C.) posted a kill to make the score 22-21 in favor of the Mids. That very quickly became 23-21 when Olivia Kluger (Sr., Carmel, Ind.) dropped in a service ace. An Army kill sliced the lead in half, then Murray tallied a kill to take Navy to set point with a 24-22 lead. Murray would register her third solo block of the set to close out the stanza and give Navy the 2-1 lead in sets.
The fourth set was different than the first three in that Army took an early lead and never relinquished it. The Black Knights held a 9-8 lead before a 3-0 run made the score 12-8. Navy closed to within two points at 12-10, 13-11 and 14-12, but Army ran off the ensuing six points to take a commanding 20-12 advantage on its way to forcing a fifth set.
The two teams played five-set matches in 2015, 2016 and earlier this year –– each played at West Point –– with Army winning each of those three matches. Additionally, Navy entered today having lost five-straight five-matches this season –– each of Navy’s four league losses this year were five-set defeats –– including one Tuesday night at Lehigh.
The teams had traded the lead eight times through the first four sets of today’s match. The fifth set alone would see five lead changes as well as the score tied nine times.
Army very quickly scored the opening three points of the final set. Navy answered with a 4-0 run to take the lead, only to see the Black Knights regain a 5-4 lead. The score would be tied at 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 before Army took an 11-9 lead. That was followed by a Navy timeout.
An Army attack error cut the difference in half, then Patricia Mattingly (Jr., New Albany, Ind.) dropped in a service ace to tie the set at 11-11. Another Army attack error gave Navy a 12-11 lead, with a kill by the Black Knights tying the set again at 12-12. Patrick broke the tie with a kill after a very lengthy rally, then the Mids reached match point on a Sgattoni ace. An Army timeout halted play for the next 75 seconds, then yet another lengthy rally ensued. Finally, Patrick registered her kill to end the proceedings.
“I think everybody just turned it up a notch (in the fifth set) rather than waiting for things to happen,” said Bock. “It just felt they were making things happen.”
“We’ve been to the fifth set so many times,” said Dotzauer. “Our attitude was a little different in that we felt it was our time. It hasn’t gone our way in the past, but we felt we were going to put up our best and get it done today.”
Navy posted seven kills and one attack error on 19 attempts (.316) in the final set, with Army tallying 10 kills and five errors on 25 swings (.200). The Mids also held a 3-1 advantage in blocks and a 2-1 edge in aces in the final stanza.
On the afternoon, Army held advantages over Navy in kills (69-52), hitting percentage (.218-.192) and digs (75-63), but the Mids tallied 17 blocks to 6 for the Black Knights.
Right-side hitters Dotzauer and Murray combined for 22 kills and 2 attack errors on 49 attempts (.408). Dotzauer posted 17 kills and a .429 attack percentage and Murray tallied five kills and a .357 hitting night to go along with five blocks.
“Our two right-side hitters were very, very good today,” said Bock. “Dorothy and Tara carried the load at the pins. It took some pressure off our left and middle attack. Both were go-to people and they came through.”
Patrick played well both offensively and defensively in the middle as she notched 14 kills, a .407 hitting percentage and seven blocks.
“Katie just continues to put the team on her shoulders,” said Bock. “Katie is the heart and soul of the team right now.”
Mattingly led Navy’s servers with three of the team’s six aces while also dishing out 37 assists, Maggie Phillips (Sr., Leesburg, Va.) had five kills and an equal number of blocks, Sydney Shearn (Jr., Louisville, Ky.) snared 20 digs and Kluger had eight digs and seven assists.
Amber Clay led the Army offense with 20 kills, with Ana Oglivie pacing the defense with 25 digs.
The first semifinal match Saturday will feature top-seeded American against No. 4 Lehigh at 2 p.m. The semifinal winners will meet Sunday at 3 p.m. in the championship match.
Final Patriot League Standings
1. *15-1 American
2. *12-4 Navy
3. *11-5 Army
T4. *9-7 Lehigh
T4. 9-7 Colgate
6. 8-8 Bucknell
7. 4-12 Loyola
T8. 2-14 Lafayette
T8. 2-14 Holy Cross
*=Clinched berth in Patriot League Tournament