Oct. 24, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will begin a busy stretch of four Patriot League matches in nine days Friday with a 7 p.m. match against Lafayette at the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa.
Free live video from the match will be available at NavySports.com through the Patriot League Digital Network. A link to free live statistics also will be provided.
Navy enters the match in fifth place in the Patriot League standings with a 4-4 record at the mid-point of the 16-match campaign. Navy is chasing Lehigh (6-3) for the fourth and final berth in the Patriot League playoffs.
"Friday is a crucial match for us after three tough outings in our last four matches," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "We had a good bounce back practice Wednesday. This is a resilient, tough team, and we feel we have a lot of confidence heading into what will be a challenging match."
Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) continues to lead Navy with a 3.63 kills-per-set average against league foes. She also stands second on the team in both hitting percentage (.278) and digs (2.30 dps).
Both of Navy's starting middle hitters, Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.) and Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) are averaging multiple kills per set during the league season. Sylakowski is averaging 2.33 kills per set with Cassel knocking down 2.07 kills per set. Sylakowski also leads the team in hitting percentage (.341) and stands second (0.85 bps) to Cassel (0.96 bps) in blocking. Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) is dishing out 9.96 assists per set, while Alli Graf (Fr., Annapolis, Md.) is pacing the Mids in both aces (0.56 saps) and digs (4.52 dps).
Navy's offensive statistics as a team are very similar to those posted by its foes. Navy is averaging 12.67 kills, 11.89 assists and 1.56 aces per set, while its opponents are putting up averages of 12.59 kills, 11.63 assists and 1.52 aces per set. Both the Mids and their opponents are hitting .211 this year.
Where Navy holds a slight advantage is in the defensive statistics. The Mids are averaging 14.26 digs and 2.15 blocks per set, with their opponents averaging 13.89 digs and 1.94 blocks per set.
Navy has struggled against Lafayette in matches played in the Kirby Sports Center. The Mids did post a three-set win over the Leopards last season in the Lehigh Valley, but that match was played in nearby Bethlehem due to the Lafayette campus and much of Easton being without power in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy. Navy has lost to Lafayette on back-to-back and three of its last four trips to Easton. The last time the Mids defeated the Leopards in a true road match for Navy was in 2009.
Both overall matches and the individual sets played between the teams have been close ones for several years. Four of the last seven matches in the series have been decided in five sets, with 17 of those 30 sets being decided by five or fewer points.
Lafayette has posted a 1-8 record in league play. However, seven of the nine wins recorded by the Leopards on the full season, including their lone league victory, have come at home. Last week, Lafayette lost at home in five sets to fourth-place Lehigh after the Leopards took a 2-1 advantage in sets on the Mountain Hawks.
"Lafayette is a good team that is far better than its record shows, especially when they are at home," said Bock. "We are going into the match with our eyes completely open. But we also know we have a terrific team that can flat-out play. This is more of a mission than just a road trip for us."
Statistically, Lafayette's offense is averaging 9.03 kills per set during the league season and has compiled a .110 hitting percentage. Defensively, the Leopards are letting their foes connect on 13.53 kills per set and tally a .244 attack percentage.
Karissa Ciliento leads the Leopards in kills with an average of 2.53 kills per set and is the top attacker on the team with a hitting percentage mark of .154. She also is tied with Samantha Volk for the team lead with eight service aces. Libero Lauren Pisauro leads the entire Patriot League with her average of 5.59 digs per set.
Navy recorded a 25-23, 25-19, 25-16 victory over Lafayette when the teams met earlier this season in Annapolis. The Mids held advantages over the Leopards in kills (51-33), attack percentage (.291-.146), aces (6-3) and digs (64-49) that day. Individually for Navy, Fortner knocked down 19 kills and hit ,471 on the afternoon, while Cassel and Sylakowski combined for 15 kills and a .419 hitting percentage. Defensively, Graf accrued 23 digs over the course of the match.
Lafayette's Ciliento posted a double-double of 12 kills and an equal number of digs, with Pisauro adding a team-high 17 digs.