BROOKLYN, N.Y. – After picking up a win against Temple on Friday, the Lehigh volleyball dropped its final two matches of the LIU Invitational on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks fell to host LIU in four sets in the morning before losing to Syracuse in straight sets in the afternoon. Senior Angelika Kopacz averaged 12 kills between the two matches while senior Jessica Kudirka averaged 32 assists.
"We saw some really good things especially in that first match," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "I think we really competed well and we are getting better every match we play. I think we got better over the weekend but we have to get more consistent with our game and we really have to learn how to finish games."
Lehigh (4-4) start the day with a first-set win against LIU 25-19. The Mountain Hawks got out to a quick 6-1 start and never looked back. Lehigh had 14 kills to just four errors for a .294 attack percentage. In the second set, it was LIU that got off to the quick start as it built up an 11-4 lead which it held the entire set for 25-17 second-set victory. The third set was close until about halfway through when LIU went on a 5-1 run to extend a 12-10 lead to 17-11. Lehigh got within three at 22-19, but couldn’t make the final push falling 25-20.
The fourth set is where Lehigh had its chances to extend the match, but couldn’t finish. Down 20-16, the Mountain Hawks fought back to within one at 22-21. LIU then won two straight points to take a 24-22 lead and Bertucci called a timeout. He told his team that he wanted them to just be aggressive and hit the ball hard somewhere without worrying about the outcome. And the Mountain Hawks responded as they came out and fought off three-straight match points to even the set at 24-24.
LIU won the next point for its fourth match point and again, Lehigh managed to get it back to even at 25-25. But then two-straight Lehigh attack errors gave the set 27-25 and the match to LIU.
"Those last two points, we went after it just like I wanted the girls to," said Bertucci. "We were playing to win and even though we didn’t get the set, I felt good about the way we finished. We didn’t give it away, we just missed our shots."
Kopacz had a team-high 16 kills while Kudirka had 34 assists and Rachel Charles and Dana Raber had 17 and 13 digs respectively. LIU had four girls in double-digit kills as Anika Foit led the way with 18 while Hanna Gibeau followed with 16, Jessica Rice with 15 and Sapphire Reid with 10.
In the second match against BIG EAST opponent Syracuse, Lehigh again had its chances to put away sets and were unable to do so. The Mountain Hawks had an 18-14 lead in the first set before Syracuse won six-straight points for a 20-18 lead. The teams exchanged points until Syracuse won the last two to edge out Lehigh 25-22.
The second set was again close until the end. This time it was Syracuse that held the 20-16 lead and Lehigh that won four-straight points to even the set at 20-20. They were locked again at 21-21 but Lehigh couldn’t get over the hump and fell 25-22.
While the matches were close, the difference was Lehigh’s 15 errors in the first two sets to Syracuse’s nine.
"We didn’t take care of the ball and just made way too many errors," said Bertucci. "If we would have played like we are capable of, we would have been up two sets going into the third. Syracuse gave us plenty of opportunities to win that match ad we didn’t capitalize."
The third set was again close with the score tied at 13-13 until Syracuse put together seven-straight points and a 12-2 run en route to a 25-15 set and match victory.
Lehigh had more kills than Syracuse 36-31 but Syracuse had a .266 attack percentage to Lehigh’s .128. Kopacz again had the team-high in kills with eight while Amanda Clark had seven kills and Paige Kruse and Jade Van Streepen had six kills apiece.
Kudirka was named to the All-Tournament Team for her efforts over the weeekend.
"The reality is even when we aren’t playing well, we are still right in every match," said Bertucci. "We are a pretty good team and I think we be OK. We just have to move forward and be positive about what we are doing and focus on the good things and keep correcting the things we are doing wrong."
While Lehigh may have a couple things to work on, it won’t have much time before getting back on the court as the Mountain Hawks travel to Piscataway, N.J. to take on BIG EAST opponent Rutgers on Tuesday at 7 p.m.