BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team fell to Army on Friday in both teams’ Patriot League opener. The Mountain Hawks won the first set, but couldn’t take advantage of the early lead as they fell in four sets (27-25, 18-25, 21-25, 22-25). Lehigh was led by senior Angelika Kopacz who had her sixth double-double of the season (16 kills, 16 digs) while senior Jessica Kudirka added a double-double of her own (37 assists, 13 digs).
“Angelika played aggressive and opened up some things for herself while Jessica did a great job running the offense getting our hitters one-on-one,” said head coach Bob Bertucci. “We played a tough opponent but Army played really good defense.”
In the first set, Lehigh (8-6, 0-1 PL) got off to a quick start but then struggled halfway through the set trailing 22-17. Then Army made four-straight attack errors to bring the Mountain Hawks to within one point. After exchanging a couple of points, Army had set-point at 24-23. But again, an Army error gave new life to Lehigh. Tied at 24-24, a Courtney McCutchan kill gave Lehigh a set point of its own before the Mountain Hawks gave it right back with a service error. But Army was quick to return the favor with a service error and Lehigh was finally able to put the set away thanks to a McCutchan kill.
The Mountain Hawks couldn’t ride the momentum however as they struggled in the second set trailing almost the whole way while Army had 14 kills and just three errors. Lehigh had 10 kills and six errors and was unable to dig itself out of an early hole.
The third and always crucial set in any match was close and intense the entire way. The two teams exchanged points through the entire set. But at 21-21, Lehigh was unable to close it out as Army won the set’s final four points.
Lehigh came out strong in the fourth set opening up an 11-5 lead. The Mountain Hawks couldn’t extend its lead however as they made too many errors allowing the Black Knights right back in the set. Yet Lehigh didn’t get down on itself and stuck right with Army down to the wire for the second-straight set. Again it was 21-21, but the Mountain Hawks couldn’t get over the hump falling 25-22.
“In that third and fourth set, we just couldn’t put the ball away,” said Bertucci. “Both teams were playing very good volleyball and it was exciting. Both teams kept countering; we just couldn’t get the last few points.”
Army (10-4, 1-0 PL) was led by Fabiola Castro who had a game-high 17 kills and added 17 digs while Margaux Jarka had 13 kills.
Despite the tough loss, Bertucci knows there are positives to take out of the match.
“Our girls knew they were in the match the whole time against a very good Army team,” said Bertucci. “We just have to play a little better defensively and be able to finish at the end, but our girls can come away knowing that we can compete with them.”
The Mountain Hawks will put the loss behind them as they take the court again in less than 24 hours when they host Holy Cross at 4 p.m. at the Leeman-Turner Arena.