Key Road Stretch Begins for Volleyball
ANNAPOLIS, Md. –– The Navy volleyball team will open a stretch of three road matches in five days with contests Friday at Bucknell and Saturday at Lafayette. The Mids (19-6, 9-3 Patriot League) will face the Bison (12-12, 6-6) at 7 p.m. in Lewisburg, Pa., and the Leopards (5-20, 2-10) at 5 p.m. in Easton, Pa.
Navy will then play Tuesday at Lehigh before concluding the regular season Nov. 12 at home against Army West Point.
Two weekends remain in the Patriot League regular season and each of the league teams will play four matches over this span. Navy sits in a tie for second place with Army West Point as both teams have posted 9-3 records, with the Black Knights currently holding the tiebreaker over the Mids. American leads the league with an 11-1 record and Lehigh is in fourth place with a 7-5 mark. Colgate and Bucknell are one game and one position in the standings in back of the Mountain Hawks with identical 6-6 records, though the Raiders hold the tiebreaker with the Bison should those two teams end the year tied (Lehigh has the tiebreaker over both Colgate and Bucknell).
Only the top-four teams at the end of the regular season advance to the Patriot League Tournament. A victory by the Mids over the Bison Friday would secure Navy a berth in the event for the second year in a row and the third time in four years. Navy has not advanced to the tournament in back-to-back years since the 2003 and 2004 campaigns.
“We are clearly trying to peak physically for this time of the year,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock. “We have a large emphasis on taking advantage of available recovery opportunities right now. We are going through 12-week exams in the classroom this week, so we are planning and operating just as we did during six-weeks exams when we won three matches in five days.
“This is really a fun time in volleyball across the country. Everyone has playoffs on their minds and every match has those magnified implications riding on it. Each team needs to be prepared to get the best shot by the teams they face.”
Navy begins the penultimate weekend of the season after having split two matches at home. The Mids first posted a 3-0 victory over Holy Cross before falling in five sets to Colgate. Each of Navy’s three league losses have been five-set contests.
Navy ranks no lower than third place in all but two of the 12 statistics tracked by the league during the league season. This includes first-place rankings in aces (1.86 saps), blocks allowed (1.53 bps) and digs (17.84 dps). The Mids as a team also rank second in kills by opponents (11.68 kps), assists by opponents (10.91 aps) and hitting percentage by opponents (.168).
Individually, Maddi Sgattoni (Fr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) leads the league in service ace average (0.60 saps), Patricia Matingly (Jr., New Albany, Ind.) is third in aces (0.39 saps) and first in assists per set (10.68 aps) and Sydney Shearn (Jr., Louisville, Ky.) ranks second in digs per set (5.80 dps).
Bucknell has posted wins in back-to-back matches and in three of its last five contests. The Bison also have notched wins in four of their last five home matches. Included in both of those stretches of recent success was a four-set victory over Lehigh.
Bucknell as a team ranks second in the league in blocks (2.24 bps), while individually Mimi Richards ranks second in blocks (1.29 bps) and sixth in hitting percentage (.326). Also for the Bison, Brooke Starke stands sixth in digs (3.93 dps) and is essentially tied for fourth place along with teammate Blake Buchholz for fourth place in service aces (0.32 saps), while Sophie Bullard ranks seventh in kills (2.98 kps).
Navy recorded a 25-8, 25-15, 25-19 victory over Bucknell when the teams met Oct. 7 in Annapolis. The Mids limited the Bison to a total of nine kills over the first two sets and 21 kills in all while Navy knocked down 14 kills in each of the three frames. Navy would hold a .326-.102 edge in hitting percentage in the match, though the Bison did record a narrow 6-4 advantage in blocks.
Tara Doztauer (Sr., Raleigh, N.C.), Sgattoni and Katie Patrick (Jr., Aurora, Colo.) produced 10, 9 and 9 kills, respectively, in the match, with Patrick not committing an attack error on 13 swings for a hitting percentage of .692. Fellow middle hitter Sarena Seelbach (So., Chapel Hill, N.C.) led the Mids with three blocks, while Sgattoni dropped in four aces and Shearn grabbed 13 digs.
Bucknell was led by Bullard with five kills, Celeste Barker with four blocks and Hailey Stout with 11 digs.
“Bucknell is right in the heart of the race for the playoffs, and their form of late shows they are on the right path,” said Bock. “You can look no further than their win over Lehigh to see that. They hit the ball hard and play everybody really tough in Davis Gym. We need to be ready for a very tactical match because they will have scouted us really well.”
Lafayette enters a Friday match at home against American winless in its last five matches. The Leopards have a pair of players who rank among the league leaders in aces as Sonia Musso is fourth (0.32 saps) and Lexie Caraveo is eighth (0.31 saps). Caraveo also ranks eighth in the league with an average of 3.60 digs per set.
Navy defeated Lafayette by scores of 25-17, 25-14, 25-15 on Oct. 6 in Annapolis. The Mids doubled the number of kills the Leopards totaled (39-18) and held a .237-(-).021 advantage in hitting percentage. Navy also held a 6-2 edge in aces, though Lafayette held a 6-4 advantage in blocks.
“Our match at Lafayette is a similar situation to what we had at the end of six week exams when we had to play two league matches on the road on back-to-back days,” said Bock. “We know Lafayette’s hitters can bring some serious heat both in pre-game practice and during the match. Regardless of how our match goes Friday, we will have a gut-check match ahead of us Saturday.”
Patriot League Standings (Remaining Matches)
1. 11-1 American (Nov. 3 at Lafayette, Nov. 4 at Lehigh, Nov. 10 vs. Colgate, Nov. 12 vs. Bucknell)
T2. 9-3 Army (Nov. 3 vs. Holy Cross, Nov. 5 at Colgate, Nov. 10 vs. Lehigh, Nov. 12 at Navy)
T2. 9-3 Navy (Nov. 3 at Bucknell, Nov. 4 at Lafayette, Nov. 7 at Lehigh, Nov. 12 vs. Army)
4. 7-5 Lehigh (Nov. 3 at Loyola, Nov. 4 vs. American, Nov. 7 vs. Navy, Nov. 10 at Army)
T5. 6-6 Colgate (Nov. 4 vs. Holy Cross, Nov. 5 at Army, Nov. 10 at American, Nov. 12 vs. Lafayette)
T5. 6-6 Bucknell (Nov. 3 vs. Navy, Nov. 4 vs. Loyola, Nov. 10 at Holy Cross, Nov. 12 at American)
7. 3-9 Loyola (Nov. 3 vs. Lehigh, Nov. 4 at Bucknell, Nov. 7 vs. Lafayette, Nov. 11 at Holy Cross)
8. 2-10 Lafayette (Nov. 3 vs. American, Nov. 4 vs. Navy, Nov. 7 at Loyola, Nov. 12 vs. Colgate)
9. 1-11 Holy Cross (Nov. 3 at Army, Nov. 4 at Colgate, Nov. 10 vs. Bucknell, Nov. 11 vs. Loyola)