Oct. 28, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will begin a busy stretch of three home matches in five days Tuesday night when the Midshipmen play host to Loyola in a 7 p.m. match in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. First serve for the match is slated for 7 p.m. Free live video through the Patriot League Digital Network as well live statistics from the match will be available on NavySports.com.
Navy saw its Patriot League record jump back over the .500 level with a four-set win at Lafayette Friday night. The Mids, who are now 9-12 overall this season and 5-4 in league matches, posted a 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-14 win over the Leopards. Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) paced the Navy offense with 14 kills while also snaring 12 digs to notch her second-straight double-double.
Setter Alex Karika (So., Cranberry Township, Pa.) did a nice job of distributing the ball to Navy's hitters. Fortner was one of four players to finish the match with at least 10 kills, while five different Mids tallied at least 16 swings. Karika had an effective night in more areas than just setting. She also dropped in a career high five service aces and grabbed a season-best 10 digs.
Included among the strong efforts against the Leopards were that of Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) and Katie Sylakowski (So., Escondido, Calif.). In addition to each player recording three blocks, Cassel also had 12 kills and hit .611 while Sylakowski posted 11 kills and hit .500.
"We are serving the ball really hard right now," said Navy head coach Larry Bock, after the Mids recorded 13 service aces against the Leopards. "We also had some young players who have started to `arrive' at this point in the season. Our middle hitters also helped us to climb out of some holes we had dug for ourselves in the match."
The Mids and the Greyhounds met just two weeks ago in Baltimore. After the teams split a pair of close sets to start the match, Navy was able to slightly separate itself late in sets three and four to win a 25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20 decision over Loyola.
The Mids held advantages over the Greyhounds in both kills (55-46) and hitting percentage (.259-.169), but most of the remaining statistics between the teams were fairly even. Navy notched nine aces, 62 digs and eight team blocks in the match, while Loyola accrued eight aces, 59 digs and six blocks.
Both teams also displayed effective offensive balance. Navy had four players reach double figures in kills and five record at least 25 swings, while Loyola had three players tally 10 or more kills and four make a minimum of 16 attempts on the ball. Having especially strong nights were the middle hitters from the two squads. Navy's duo of Cassel and Sylakowski combined for 21 kills and a .375 hitting percentage, with Loyola's Mindy Maloney producing 13 kills and no attack errors on her 16 swings (.812). Maloney is leading all players in the Patriot League with a .439 attack percentage against league foes.
Additionally, each team had five players drop in at least one service ace and three players tally multiple blocks.
"We are in unchartered waters with the new league schedule," said Bock, on the unbalanced schedule that has the Mids playing Loyola twice within a fortnight. "Realistically, we have to concern ourselves more with how we play as opposed to the name on the jersey on the other side of the net. Who we play and when we play them are afterthoughts."
Loyola enters the week with a 2-7 record in Patriot League play in this, its first season as a member of the league.
Tuesday's match will mark Loyola's first match against Navy on The Yard since the Greyhounds defeated the Mids during the 2008 season. Loyola participated in the 2009 Battle of Baltimore that was jointly played at Navy and Towson.
Navy's homestand will continue this weekend with matches against Lehigh Friday at 7 p.m. and Bucknell Saturday at 4 p.m.