Nov. 8, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will close its 2012 regular season this weekend when the Midshipmen play host to a pair of matches in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Navy will first face Bucknell Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Colgate Saturday at 2 p.m.
Links to free live statistics from the match will be available both at NavySports.com and for those who have downloaded the free Navy App onto their Apple or Android smart phone or tablet. Additionally, a video stream of the match will be available over the internet to Navy All-Access subscribers (a one-month subscription costs $9.95, while a year-long subscription is $79.95) and on mobile devices for those who have subscribed to the Navy App (Apple: $4.99/month, $19.99/year; Android: $9.99/year).
Only those fans with a Department of Defense sticker affixed to their vehicle are allowed to drive onto the USNA grounds. All other fans wishing to attend either of the volleyball matches must either park in downtown Annapolis and walk through the security gate or ride the free shuttle bus to and from the USNA. The shuttle bus will originate from and return to the Blue (west) side parking lot at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (550 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Md., 21401). While the shuttle bus itself is free, there is a $5 per vehicle charge for parking.
The Mids enter the weekend still alive in the race for the fourth and final berth into the Patriot League Tournament. Navy, 6-6 in league matches, is in fifth place in the standings. Lehigh is in fourth place with a 7-5 record and the Mountain Hawks hold the tiebreaker over the Mids should the teams end the weekend tied. For Navy to edge Lehigh, the Mids need to win both of their matches this weekend and the Mountain Hawks need to lose both Friday against Holy Cross and Saturday against Army. Lehigh also will end the season by playing in its home venue.
Colgate (11-1) enters its match Friday at American already assured of the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. American and Army are tied for second place with 9-3 records. The Eagles hold the tiebreaker over the Black Knights.
Rounding out the Patriot League standings are Bucknell in sixth place (3-9), Lafayette in seventh (2-10) and Holy Cross in eighth (1-11).
"This may be the final weekend of the regular season and the importance of the matches magnified due to their playoff implications, but we haven't approached this week any differently than we have in previous weeks," said Navy head coach Larry Bock. "There were a number of exams given in classes this week, so we have had to account for that. When exam week came earlier this season, we ended up having our best weekend of the year. We are looking for that trend to continue.
"Our team is beyond perceptive. I am sure they had the playoff situation figured out before the coaches did. We obviously just have to take care of things on our own plate and not mind what could or could not happen on another court."
The Mids enter the final weekend of play battling for the playoffs for the first time since placing fourth in the 2007 season with an 8-6 record. That also was the last time a Navy team finished a season with either a winning or .500 season in league play. Since then, Navy posted five league wins in 2008 and a total of five league wins from 2009-11 before having won six matches thus far this fall.
The playoffs aside, Navy also has the chance to separate itself as the most improved team in league history. The Mids have improved their win total by five from last year to this year, which currently is tied for the biggest one-season leap in victories with three other teams (Bucknell, 2000; Navy, 2007; Colgate, 2007). One more victory would give the Mids an improvement of six wins from last year, an improvement no other team in league history has made.
"As much as we want to employ quantitative measures for the team," said Bock, "this is sports and numbers do come into play. Having the opportunity to come away with a winning record is both an affirmation of this season and a springboard into the future."
Prior to the start of Saturday's match, Navy will hold its annual Senior Day ceremony for the program's three members of the Class of 2013: Carolyn Ewert (Bakersfield, Calif.), Christy Rapp (Royal Oak, Mich.) and team captain Kelsey Owen (Canfield, Ohio).
"This senior class has been the bedrock of the team in my brief (two-year) membership with the program," said Bock. "Even through our first year here, (assistant coach) Kait Kozak and I wondered how much fun and rewarding it would be to have this team be a contender. Now that we are going through that, we have not been disappointed in the enjoyment we have had. Technically and tactically, on and off the court, we inherited a strong group that was good in all dimensions. This season has been a testament to these players and this senior class in particular and not necessarily the coaches."
The last time Navy won its final home match of the Patriot League season was in 2005.
Navy posted a 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 victory over Bucknell when the teams met earlier this season in Lewisburg, Pa. The Mids totaled 46 kills and a .243 hitting percentage while limiting the Bison to 29 kills and a .135 hitting percentage. Navy outhit Bucknell despite the Mids committing 21 attack errors to 16 for the Bison. The Mids also held the edge over the Bison in both aces (7-2) and digs (46-33).
Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah) led Navy with 12 kills and a .556 attack percentage in that match, with Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) contributing 10 kills. On the other side of the net, Bucknell's Claire Healy led all players in the match with 13 kills while also adding a team-high 11 digs.
Navy's win over Bucknell was the last match in a season-opening stretch where the Bison lost all seven of their league matches and were just 5-21 in sets played against league foes. Since then, however, Bucknell has won three of its last five matches -- conversely, Navy is 2-3 in matches since first facing Bucknell -- and is 10-10 in sets played during this time. Additionally, after losing 13 of 17 sets that were decided by five or fewer points during its losing skid, Bucknell has since posted a 6-6 record in sets decided by no more than five points.
Bucknell had been outhit by its foes by 50 points (.190-.140) through seven matches, but it has sliced that deficit almost in half (.180-.150) over the last five matches. The Bison also are allowing opponents two fewer kills (14.31-12.20) and half as many service aces (1.92-1.00) per set over their most recent five matches than they did in their first seven.
"Bucknell has made some changes to its lineup since we first played them," said Bock. "We know they have been looking forward to their match against us since that our match at their place. Friday's match will come down to ball control, which we barely had the edge in during the first match. We have to be in our system more than Bucknell is."
A win over Bucknell would give Navy the season series against the Bison for the first time since the 2007 season.
Colgate came away with a 25-20, 26-24, 25-21 victory over Navy when the teams met Oct. 12 in Hamilton, N.Y. Defense dominated the match as both teams hit a paltry .114 on the evening. The Mids tallied 41 kills and 26 attack errors and the Raiders finished the night with 36 kills and 22 hitting errors.
Each team had players total both 12 (Ewert, Colgate's Michelle McCarthy) and 10 kills (Fortner, Colgate's Diane Seely) on the night, as well as three players snare at least 10 digs. Navy's J.B. Loomis (So., Havertown, Pa.) and Colgate's Caitlin Cremin both tallied 14 digs for their respective team.
"What stands out from our first Colgate match is that neither team played very well," said Bock. "We had a lot of errors that were very uncharacteristic of our team, but so too did Colgate."
Navy will be looking to defeat Colgate for the first time since the 2005 campaign.