Aug. 29, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A slate of four matches at George Mason's Patriot Invitational await the Navy volleyball team this weekend. The Mids will begin play at the event Saturday with matches against Niagara (11 a.m.) and West Virginia (5 p.m.), then will face South Carolina (11 a.m.) and host school (5 p.m.) on Sunday.
The Midshipmen opened their 2012 campaign by playing host to the Kristen Dickmann Invitational. Navy posted a five-set victory over Hartford and suffered losses to Norfolk State (four sets) and Nebraska-Omaha (three sets) on the weekend.
"We'll take the lessons we learned last week and work on applying them this week," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "I expect this to be a productive tournament for us."
Bock made extensive use of his roster during the season opening tournament as 15 different players took to the court. Eight Mids played in at least 10 of the 12 sets for Navy, with Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.), Christy Rapp (Sr., Royal Oak, Mich.), Olivia Yeager (Fr., Lutz, Fla.) and Katie Sylakowski (Fr., Escondido, Calif.) playing in every set.
Ewert and Yeager placed first and second, respectively, on the team in kills as the senior notched 34 kills and the freshman tallied 28. Rapp paced all Navy players during the tournament with 34 digs, while Sylakowski totaled 19 kills and hit .255.
Navy as a team totaled one more block than its opponents did on the weekend (23-22) and finished with just six fewer digs than its foes hauled in (138-132). Conversely, the Mids totaled 22 fewer kills (143-121) and 21 fewer service aces (28-7) than they allowed, while also being outhit, .198-.149.
"We will be facing a big step up in competition this week," said Bock, of the opponents Navy will play in Fairfax., "but that will help us down the road when we start league play. This weekend is all part of the process of getting where we want to eventually be and it is not our destination. We just have to try and keep improving each day to continue that process."
Niagara enters the event after having posted a record of 1-2 on the first weekend of the season. The Purple Eagles dropped matches to La Salle and Loyola (Ill.) and defeated Bucknell. Two of the three sets played in Niagara's match against the Bison were determined by just two points.
Niagara, which has won each of the last three Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament titles, was tabbed to place second in the MAAC this season. The Purple Eagles, who were 25-9 last season, and the Mids have not faced each other since the 2005 season. Navy holds a 6-2 edge in the series.
West Virginia has compiled a 2-1 record this season. The Mountaineers have recorded wins over Loyola (Md.) and Central Connecticut State and suffered their lone loss to Saint Francis (Pa.). The program will play host to Texas on Wednesday before beginning play in the Patriot Invitational.
West Virginia finished the 2011 season with an overall record of 7-19 and an 11th-place showing in the Big East. The Mountaineers were tabbed to place ninth in the Big 12 Conference this year.
The lone previous match between Navy and West Virginia took place in 1979 when the Mountaineers defeated the Mids in straight sets.
South Carolina will bring a 4-0 record with it to Fairfax. The Gamecocks opened the 2012 season by notching victories against Temple, Akron, East Tennessee State and UNC Asheville.
South Carolina placed fifth in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference last season and ended the campaign with an overall record of 14-16. The Gamecocks were selected to place sixth in the SEC's East Division this year.
Sunday's match will be the inaugural meeting between Navy and South Carolina.
George Mason has played a trio of local foes thus far this season. The Patriots dropped matches to American and Georgetown before recording a five-set win over UMBC Tuesday night.
George Mason tallied an overall record of 7-19 record and finished in a tie for ninth place in the Colonial Athletic Association during the 2012 season. The Patriots were tabbed to finish in seventh place in the CAA this season.
Navy and George Mason faced each other one year ago during the Patriot Invitational. The Patriots emerged with a 25-19, 25-21, 25-13 victory over the Mids. The result gave George Mason an 8-2 edge over Navy in the all-time series between the two programs. This overall tally includes wins in each of the three matches the two squads have played during Navy's Division I era that started with the 1991 season.