NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In a tough midweek game against a BIG EAST opponent, the Lehigh volleyball team fell in straight sets against Rutgers on Tuesday night 3-0 (20-25, 17-15, 18-25). Sophomore Paige Kruse led the way for the Mountain Hawks with eight kills while freshman Jade Van Streepen in her first collegiate start added five kills as the duo combined for 13 of Lehigh’s 22 kills.
"We didn’t play real well tonight, we just didn’t take care of the ball and made entirely too many unforced errors," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "I thought Paige did a good job offensively."
The first set was close the whole way. It was tied at 10-10 until Rutgers pulled away going on a 9-3 run as Lehigh dropped the set 25-20. Kruse had four kills in the set while Van Streepen had three. The Mountain Hawks only had three attack errors in the set while Rutgers had seven. Lehigh also had a higher hitting percentage than Rutgers in the first set .222-.171 but the Mountain Hawks were unable to take advantage.
In the second set, the match was tied at 6-6 before Rutgers scored six unanswered points as Lehigh fell 25-17. The Mountain Hawks only had six kills in the set, four of those coming from Kruse but they couldn’t overcome the Scarlet Knights’ attack which caught fire with 15 kills for a .385 hitting percentage.
"That was the oddest thing in the first set because statistically we were doing better than them," said Bertucci. "Then in that second set, we just weren’t putting any pressure on them at all and our errors led to Rutgers’ confidence building and they didn’t miss."
Lehigh came out strong for the third set tied at 16-16, but Rutgers scored five straight points as the Mountain Hawks lost the third set 25-18. Again Lehigh was held to single digit kills with five. On the match, Lehigh had 22 kills while Rutgers more than doubled that number 43.
Rutgers was led by Sofi Cucuz who had 14 kills while Tiffany Regmund added seven kills and eight digs.
Bertucci knew the match was going to be tough coming in and after facing two straight BIG EAST opponents (Lehigh fell to Syracuse on Sunday), he knows his team has to regain its confidence.
"Two BIG EAST opponents are a challenge but I think if we played our own game on our side of the net, it would have been a lot better of a match," said Bertucci. "We just have to start building our own confidence and I think these last two matches but have damaged that a little bit."
The match was the ninth straight on the road for the Mountain Hawks to start the 2011 season who finally return home on Friday when they host the Lehigh/Lafayette Crosstown Tournament. While Bethlehem will be a welcomed site for the team, Bertucci knows that if they truly want to be a great team, they have to learn how to win on the road.
"There is no doubt that it is difficult on the road, but if you want to be a contender you have to find ways to win away from home," said Bertucci. "Nine in a row is definitely tough and hopefully playing at home will give us a little advantage in some of these matches."
Lehigh hits the court on Friday at 6 p.m. against Saint Francis (Pa.) at the Leeman-Turner Arena.