Sept. 26, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After successfully opening its Patriot League campaign last weekend with a victory, the Navy volleyball team will take to the road this weekend for a pair of league matches. The Midshipmen will face Bucknell Friday at 7 p.m. in Lewisburg, Pa., and Lehigh Saturday at 4 p.m. in Bethlehem, Pa.
Links to free live video streams of both matches through the Patriot League Network will be available at NavySports.com, as will links to live statistics from both matches.
Navy posted a three-set win over Lafayette Saturday afternoon to win its league opener for the second year in a row. The last time the Mids won their initial match of a league campaign in consecutive years was when they won three in a row from 2005-07.
Navy's hitting came to life against Lafayette, especially in the second and third sets. The Mids hit .226 in winning the opening set 25-23, but then hit a combined .338 in winning sets two and three by scores of 25-19 and 25-16, respectively. Navy's defense also improved over the course of the afternoon as it limited the Leopards to hitting percentage marks of, in order, .186, .146 and .103 in the three sets.
Individually, Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) led Navy with 19 kills, while Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) gathered in a match-high 23 digs. Navy's bench play also factored prominently into the win. Each of the nine Navy hitters who took to the court tallied at least one kill, while 10 of the 13 players in all snared at least one dig.
"We had people come off the bench and play really well," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "That is a wonderful trait for this team to have in our toolbox. It also was a breakout performance for our libero (Graf). That is a nice sign of things to come."
Navy, 5-7 this season, heads to Pennsylvania looking to win consecutive matches for the second time this season and win back-to-back league matches for the second time under Bock.
"It is not a physical challenge," said Bock of playing matches on consecutive days, "but to maintain a point-to-point preparation level is hard work both mentally and emotionally. We feel we are getting batter at doing that with each match."
Bucknell enters Friday match with an overall record of 6-5 and a Patriot League mark of 0-2. The Bison suffered road losses to both Holy Cross and Army. However, the Bison lost their three sets to the Crusaders by a total of seven points and their loss to the Black Knights saw two of the three sets played between the teams be determined by no more than three points.
"Bucknell is a very good team, as its performance this weekend indicated," said Bock. "They had a terrific non-league season, so we know they are a very capable team. We know a lot of their personnel from past years, and these are good volleyball players."
The Bison are narrowly being outhit by their foes this season, .187-.167, and is averaging one fewer kill per set than it is allowing (12.72-11.72 kps). As for defense, Bucknell holds slight advantages over its foes in both digs (14.56-14.16 dps) and blocks (2.44-.2.40 bps).
A trio of Bison are averaging over 2.00 kills per set this season. Leading the team in kills are Morgan Mientus (2.33 kps) and Erika Eastley (2.23). Eastley also is pacing the Bison with a hitting percentage of .351 and with a 1.40 blocks-per-set average. Ranking second on the squad in both hitting (.305) and blocking (0.93 bps) is Karen Campbell. Defensively, Katie Price (4.28 dps) and Mientus (3.10 dps) lead Bucknell in digs.
Navy won both of the matches it played against Bucknell last season. The Mids won in three sets in Lewisburg and in five sets in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Navy has compiled a 3-1 record against Bucknell under Bock. Nine of the 17 sets played between the teams over the last two years have been decided by five or fewer points. This includes six of the sets being determined by no more than three points.
Lehigh, which plays host to Loyola Friday night, has compiled an overall record of 10-4 and begins the week with a 2-1 record in Patriot League matches. The Mountain Hawks have defeated Lafayette (four sets) and Holy Cross (three sets) and lost to Army (five sets) thus far in league play. Additionally, Lehigh has compiled a record of 9-3 in matches played at home, and each of the three losses for the Mountain Hawks have come in five-set matches.
"Lehigh is a team we know will serve and pass with the best we will face this season," said Bock. "They compete really hard, especially at home. Lehigh is a team that is a lot of fun to play against."
The Mountain Hawks hold sizeable advantages over their foes in each of the three offensive statistical categories. Lehigh is averaging 13.40 kills and 1.98 aces per set and is hitting .204, while allowing its opposition averages of 10.55 kills and 1.15 aces per set and a hitting percentage of just .147. Defensively, Lehigh is averaging 15.34 digs and 1.89 blocks per set, while giving up 14.64 digs and 1.89 blocks per set.
Though Jade Van Streepen is the lone Lehigh player to be averaging over three kills a set (3.15 kps), three additional teammates are averaging over two kills a set: Kaylynn Genemaras, 2.71 kps; Leah Turner, 2.25 kps; Amanda Clark, 2.08 kps. Additionally, Kianna Carroll leads the team in hitting percentage with a mark of .288, while Rachel Charles and Amy Matula are averaging team-high averages of 0.42 and 0.33 aces per set, respectively. Charles also is grabbing a Lehigh-best 4.45 digs per set, with Clark (0.92 bps) and Ana Vrhel (0.80 bps) posting team-high blocking numbers.
The Mids are just 1-3 in matches played against Lehigh in Bock's two seasons in Annapolis, and have lost on both of their previous trips to Bethlehem. The teams split the two meetings last year, with Navy winning in five sets in Annapolis and Lehigh posting a three-set win in Grace Hall.