BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team was undermanned but not outmatched against first-place American. Despite a spirited effort, the Mountain Hawks were eliminated from postseason contention as they fell 3-0 to the Eagles Friday night inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. All three sets ended 25-23 in favor of the visitors as American wins its 20th straight match and moves to 26-2 overall and 13-0 in the Patriot League.
Lehigh, who was without juniors Angelika Kopacz and Brittany Reichwein and freshman libero Rachel Charles, falls to 12-13 overall and 6-7 in the league with one match remaining.
With three regulars out, the Mountain Hawks only used seven players, five of whom were freshmen. Both teams hit well, with American racking up a .354 hitting percentage, while Lehigh hit a respectable .240.
“I’m proud of the effort,” said Lehigh head coach Jenny Maurer. “Obviously we need to finish better, but I’m not disappointed by any stretch. We knew going in we were facing a good team that was undefeated in the league, and we played well we just need to learn how to finish.”
Sophomore Taylor Poole and freshman Courtney McCutchan led Lehigh with 11 kills apiece, with Poole hitting an incredible .647 on the night. Junior Jessica Kudirka registered 31 assists on the night, while freshman Dana Raber moved to the libero spot and led the Mountain Hawks with eight digs.
Angelina Waterman hit .577 with a match-high 16 kills for American. Magdalena Tekiel registered a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs.
The first set was tightly contested throughout. A late 4-0 run gave the Eagles a 21-17 lead and they held on to win the set 25-23.
American won the first four points of the second set, but Lehigh responded by winning the next five to take the lead. This time it was Lehigh that would gradually build a lead, but with the Mountain Hawks up 22-19, the Eagles put together a 5-0 run to take the lead, and again held off Lehigh by that same 25-23.
In the third set the Mountain Hawks again built a lead, but showed their youth and inexperience in being unable to close out the set. American battled back to 23-23 and after an attack error by McCutchan and a kill by Tekiel, the Eagles had their 20th straight win.
“Competitiveness is based on the ability to adapt,” said Maurer about the lineup changes. “No championships are won without adversity. We need to rise to challenges when they are presented if we want to get where we want to be.”
The Mountain Hawks will close out the regular season on Saturday when they host Navy at 4 p.m. inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.