Air Force Match Starts Busy Week for Navy Volleyball
Sept. 10, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will begin its last week of play before the start of the Patriot League season by playing host to Air Force Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. The Mids will then travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, near the home of senior team captain Erin Fortner (Villa Hills, Ky.), to take part in the UC Invitational II Friday and Saturday.
A free live video stream of the Air Force at Navy match will be available on NavySports.com through the Patriot League Network. Additionally, live statistics from the match will be available at NavySports.com.
There is no admission charge for any Navy home volleyball match.
All fans without a Department of Defense identification card will need to either park outside of the Naval Academy and walk through the security checkpoint or else ride the free shuttle bus to and from the matches. The shuttle bus will originate from and return to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (parking is $5. per vehicle). For directions, shuttle bus location and answers to other game day related questions, please visit the following link:
Navy posted a 2-2 record at the Mountaineer Invite this past weekend. The Mids, who are now 3-4 on the season, lost to Fordham, defeated Norfolk State, beat Canisius and lost to tournament-host West Virginia on the trip to Morgantown. Each of the four matches lasted the minimum of three sets.
Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) paced Navy with a 3.30 kills-per-set average during the invite. She also ranked second -- to the team's libero -- with an average of 2.00 digs per set. Among her efforts on the weekend was a 15-kill performance against Canisius. That is the highest kill total she has posted in a three-set match in her career.
Also putting up strong statistical numbers on the weekend were middle hitters Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) and Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah), along with setter Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.). Sylakowski, who was named to the all-tournament team, averaged 2.25 kills per set and hit .302, while Cassel averaged 2.27 kills and hit .333. Both players also recorded eight blocks.
Karika, who surpassed the 1,000-assist plateau for her career during the course of the invite, dished out 9.64 assists per set, led Navy with five service aces and finished just behind the tandem of middle hitters with five blocks. Her career tally of 1,095 assists ranks 10th overall in Navy history and sixth among Mids who have competed since the introduction of rally scoring rules in 2001.
"We had not just positives during the matches last week," said Bock, "but jump up and down positives from the production of our middle hitters. The places we need to make strides in includes our offense when we get out of system. We are well on our way with working on that this week."
Air Force makes the trip to the East Coast with a 1-5 record on the year. Included on its ledger this season are a five-set win over Long Beach State and a five-set loss to UC Irvine.
Air Force posted an overall record of 9-21 last season and placed eighth in the Mountain West Conference with a mark of 3-13. The Falcons were tabbed to place 10th in the 11-member conference this season.
The Mids and the Falcons have met in both of Larry Bock's previous two seasons as the head coach at Navy. Air Force picked up a three-set win in 2011 and rallied after dropping the first two sets to defeat Navy, 15-12 in the fifth, last season.
Navy posted more kills (51-45), digs (66-57) and blocks (17-8) than Air Force did in last year's match, with the teams tallying an almost identical hitting percentage (.131-.129 in favor of Air Force) and number of service aces (5-4, Air Force). Additionally, Navy totaled 96 points in the five sets while Air Force accrued 92 points.
Individually among returning players, Sylakowski put together one of her better matches of the entire season a year ago against the Falcons. She tallied 13 kills and zero attack errors on 22 swings for a .591 attack percentage to go along with eight blocks. Cassel also played well with 10 kills, a .231 attack percentage and eight blocks. Fortner joined the middle hitters in posting double figure kills with 10, but she was held to a -.108 hitting percentage.
Cami Richan's 11 kills were the most posted in last year's match by a current member of the Air Force team. Also back for the Falcons is Hilary Keltner, who snared 17 digs against the Mids last season.
After the match against the Falcons, the Mids will open the two-day UC Invitational II Friday with matches against the tournament-host Bearcats (11:30 a.m.) and Northern Kentucky (4:30 p.m.) before taking on Cleveland State Saturday (11:30 a.m.).
Links to live scoring from each of Navy's matches are available at NavySports.com, as is a link to the video stream of the Navy-Cincinnati match. There is a $9.95 fee to view the stream.
Cincinnati is located just 15 minutes away from the hometown of Fortner.
"It will be great to play a hometown match for Erin," said Bock. "In addition to playing at home for her, we will be facing terrific competition at the tournament. What a great combination for our trip."
Cincinnati placed fifth in the Big East Conference last season with a mark of 9-6 and posted an overall record of 12-20 on the season. The Bearcats were selected to place fourth in the new American Athletic Conference this season.
Cincinnati enters a Tuesday night match at Western Kentucky with a 0-6 record this year. The Bearcats have suffered losses to Tennessee, Ohio, Dayton and North Carolina, among others.
Northern Kentucky posted an overall record of 25-7 in 2012, which was the program's first season of competition on the Division I level. The Norse also placed third in the Atlantic Sun with a record of 12-6. The squad was predicted to finish in sixth place in the conference in 2013.
Northern Kentucky has posted a 2-4 record after two weeks of the season. This mark includes losses to Clemson, Xavier and No. 7 Michigan.
Cleveland State swept the Horizon League's regular season and tournament titles in 2012 with a league mark of 13-1 and an overall record of 23-7. The league's pre-season poll placed the Vikings second this season.
The Vikings enter the tournament with a 5-2 record on the season. Cleveland State has already defeated Canisius, a team Navy also defeated, as well as UC Irvine. One of the two losses for the Vikings came to the hands of North Carolina State.
This weekend will mark the first time Navy will have faced either Cincinnati or Cleveland State, and the lone previous match it has played against Northern Kentucky was a win by the Mids in 1990.
"We have a wonderful slate of matches ahead of us this week," said Bock. "The teams we will be playing are going to serve us real tough and the ball they will be hitting will have a faster pace to it. I am glad West Virginia prepped us well for this week."