Nov. 1, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will play its final two road matches of the regular season this weekend when the Midshipmen travel to Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley for matches against Lafayette on Friday and Lehigh on Saturday.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the region, specifically the Lafayette campus, has led to several changes in this weekend's schedule. Lehigh's Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall will not only play host to both of Lehigh's matches this weekend against the Mids and Navy's travel partner American, but also to Lafayette's pair of matches. Friday's slate in Bethlehem, Pa., features the Mountain Hawks playing host to American at 5 p.m. followed by Navy taking on Lafayette at 8 p.m. Then on Saturday, the Mids will play Lehigh in a 1 p.m. match prior to the Leopards and the Eagles taking to the court at 4 p.m.
Links to live internet video and live statistics from Navy's match against Lehigh are available at NavySports.com. Multimedia offerings for the Navy-Lafayette match have not been finalized, though live video and live statistics were originally going to be offered when the match was slated to be contested at Lafayette.
Navy enters the weekend in fifth place in the Patriot League standings with a 5-5 record in league play. Only the top-four teams in the standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the Patriot League Tournament. Currently in fourth place is Lehigh with a 6-4 record, while American is in third place with a mark of 7-3.
"We haven't discussed playoffs or the ramifications of this weekend's matches with the team this week in practice," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "What we have worked on is improving the way we both start and finish sets. We have been pretty consistent with how we have played in the middle of sets, but we need to start and finish better."
The Mids have lost both of their matches to American this season, including a four-set defeat in Navy's most recent outing. The Eagles held a .290-.142 advantage in hitting percentage on the night in posting their 25-20, 25-10, 21-25, 25-21 victory. Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) and Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) both reached double figures in kills in the match -- Fortner with 16, Ewert with 10 -- while Ewert added 11 digs to notch her third double-double of the season. Pacing the Navy defense in digs was Christy Rapp (Sr., Royal Oak, Mich.) with 14.
"Even though we lost to American," said Bock, "we took a number of lessons out of the match that we can use this week. I think we now have a more flexible and versatile lineup than we had going into the match. That all begins with passing and serving."
Navy rallied after dropping the first two sets of its Sept. 29 match against Lafayette to defeat the Leopards in five sets. The Mids came away with a 12-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-6 victory in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Navy outhit Lafayette .259-.200 on the afternoon, and the Mids held slight advantages over the Leopards in kills (57-51), digs (64-57) and blocks (8-4).
Individually, Ewert paced all players in the match with 16 kills. She was joined in double digits by Fortner with 14 and by Katie Sylakowski (Fr., Escondido, Calif.) with 12. Ewert also hit .333 while Sylakowski posted a .478 attack percentage. Rapp was the top passer in the match as she snared 23 digs to aid the Navy effort. Additionally, J.B. Loomis (So., Havertown, Pa.) and Alex Karika (Fr., Cranberry Township, Pa,) both grabbed 10 digs for the Mids.
Lafayette's offense was led by the tandem of Karissa Ciliento and Katy Rooney. Ciliento knocked down 12 kills -- to go along with an equal number of digs -- and Rooney finished the match with 11 kills and a .429 attack percentage. Lauren Pisauro led Lafayette's defense with 17 digs.
The first match of the season between the teams was another in a long run of close ones. Four of the last five and five of the last seven matches in the series have been extended to five sets. A total of 32 sets have been played between the teams during this time, with 11 of them decided by just two points and 18 of them determined by five or fewer points.
Navy's win snapped a three-match losing streak in the series for the Mids. Lafayette, 2-8 in the league this autumn, has won each of the last two and three of the last four matches against Navy that have been played in the Lehigh Valley. The teams have played 18 sets over the last four matches that have been played at Lafayette, with six of them having been decided by just two points and 11 sets in all being determined by no more than five points.
One day before the Mids rallied for their win against Lafayette, Navy put together the exact same type of match against Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks won the first sets of the Sept. 28 match in Annapolis by scores of 25-21 and 25-17, respectively, but Navy won the next three sets by the counts of 25-23, 25-16 and 17-15 to cap the dramatic rally.
Though Navy outhit Lehigh by a very slim margin, .223-.219, the Mids tallied 68 kills to 60 for the Mountain Hawks. Conversely, Lehigh totaled 63 digs and 14 blocks to Navy's 55 digs and 11 blocks.
Ewert also had a very strong match against Lehigh. She posted 20 kills on the night to lead all players in the match. Fortner finished with 16 kills and a .302 attack percentage, Sylakowski accrued 13 kills, hit .545 and dropped in three aces while Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah) finished the night with 10 kills and six blocks. Karika had a solid all-around effort with 58 kills, 12 digs and four blocks, with Rapp grabbing a match-high 17 digs.
Lehigh had three of its players end the match with double figure kills. Jade Van Streepan and Taylor Poole both totaled 14 kills, with Kaylynn Genemaras adding 11 kills. Poole also contributed seven blocks in the match, while Courtney McCutchan and Rachel Charles added 16 and 14 digs, respectively.
The Mountain Hawks had entered that match on a six-match winning streak against the Mids. Lehigh has defeated Navy in each of the last three matches that have been played in Bethlehem.
"We can't expect to win this weekend as we did the first time we played Lehigh and Lafayette," said Bock. "You are not going to win a road match if you dig deficits as we did earlier this season. These are going to be two long, tough matches and we have to come out strong in every set."