Nov. 14, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy volleyball team will close out its regular season this weekend with a pair of matches in the Wesley A. Brown Field House. The Midshipmen will play host to Army Friday at 7 p.m. and Holy Cross Saturday at Noon.
All fans without a Department of Defense identification card will need to either park outside of the Naval Academy and walk through the security checkpoint or else ride the free shuttle bus to and from the matches. Fans can catch Friday's shuttle bus from the blue (west) side parking lot of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. There is a $5 per vehicle fee to park at the stadium. Due to the Navy-South Alabama football game taking place Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the free shuttle bus for the Navy-Holy Cross volleyball match will originate from and return to the Truman Park and Ride, which is located at the corner of Riva Road and Truman Parkway near the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration building in Annapolis. Shuttle bus service will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Free live video via the Patriot League Digital Network from Friday's Army-Navy match will be available at NavySports.com. Additionally, links to live statistics from both of Navy's matches this weekend can be found at NavySports.com.
Either Army or Navy will earn the fourth and final berth in next week's Patriot league Tournament. The Black Knights currently hold down fourth place in the league standings with a 9-5 record in league play, while the Mids are in fifth place with an 8-6 record. Army enters Friday's match holding two key tiebreakers over Navy. The Black Knights posted 25-17, 25-14, 25-18 win over the Mids in the first meeting of the season between the teams, and they also have recorded a win over first-place American while the Mids lost both of their matches against the Eagles this year.
"We are in very nice unchartered waters," said Navy head coach Larry Bock, on being in the mix for the playoffs. "It is an amazing thing for this team to have two big matches ahead of them on the last weekend of the season. To have Army and Holy Cross be these big games is a terrific opportunity for is. It will be bedlam in the gym, which will make for a great atmosphere to both play in and be in the crowd for."
The first meeting of the season between Army and Navy saw Black Knights hit .363 in the match and hold the Mids to a hitting percentage of .096. Army's Olivia Fairfeild alone had 17 kills and hit .708 on the evening.
"Army is a physical team with great talent, especially at setter and libero," said Bock. "They serve the ball well and make teams earn every point. We have to take away their favorite shots with our blocking. Our offense has to do well in the geography of the net, but everybody in the league knows that by now. We have to serve the ball well and rebound from a poor first contact match Wednesday at American."
Navy tallied a 25-18, 25-21, 25-13 win over Holy Cross in the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Mids posted 40 kills and hit .313 while limiting the Crusaders to 31 kills and a .120 hitting percentage. Erin Fortner (Sr., Villa Hills, Ky.) and Alex Cassel (Jr., Sandy, Utah) combined for 21 kills and a .484 attack percentage in the match, with Cassel also tallying five blocks. On the other side of the net, Mandy Sifferlen led Holy Cross with 10 kills.
"Holy Cross is a young and athletic team with a setter who is very good now and only improving each day," said Bock. "She complicates things for defenses by being really offensive minded with her second ball attacks. Our middle hitters were at the top of their games the first time we played them. We have to get back to that kind of production for us to be successful."
Navy will hold Senior Day ceremonies prior to the start of Saturday's match to recognize Fortner and classmate Caroline Jacobs (Sr., Arnold, Md.) in their final matches on The Yard. Fortner ranks among the Navy career record holders in multiple statistics, including eighth with 998 kills and ninth with 765 digs. Jacobs has appeared in 73 matches in her career and this season has tallied nearly as many blocks (13) as she had posted in her first three seasons combined (17). She took to the court for just the third set Wednesday night against American, but knocked down three kills without registering an error on six swings in her limited action.
"Erin is in many ways the face of this team and our program," said Bock, "and Caroline is the absolute heart and soul of it. (Assistant coach) Kait Kozak and I have been so lucky to have inherited these two outstanding young ladies from Mike Schwob. Their impact on Navy volleyball will be felt for many years to come."
Navy enters the weekend assured of having no worse than a .500 record in the Patriot League for the second year in a row. The last time Navy posted consecutive seasons with at least a .500 record was in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Additionally, a victory by Navy in either match this weekend would make this year's Mids the first to have a winning record in league play since the 2007 team finished with an 8-6 record.
Patriot League Standings (remaining matches)
1. 13-1 - American (Lehigh, Colgate)
2. 12-2 - Colgate (at Loyola, at American)
3. 11-4 - Lehigh (at American)
4. 9-5 - Army (at Navy, at Lafayette)
5. 8-6 - Navy (Army, Holy Cross)
6. 4-10 - Loyola (Colgate, Bucknell)
7. 3-12 - Bucknell (at Loyola)
T8. 2-12 - Holy Cross (at Lafayette, at Navy)
T8. 2-12 - Lafayette (Holy Cross, Army)