WASHINGTON, D.C. – The No. 3 Lehigh volleyball team fell 3-0 to No.2 Army Saturday in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. The Mountain Hawks were led by junior Taylor Poole’s eight kills and .471 attack percentage while sophomore Courtney McCutchan added eight kills and senior Jessica Kudirka had a double-double of 27 assists and 18 digs.
"We didn't play as well as we needed to and Army just didn't make any mistakes," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "We played well and competed hard, but we just didn't have enough. The games were close, but we just couldn't finish at the end."
It was Lehigh’s second appearance in the Patriot League Tournament in three years as the Mountain Hawks fell to Army in 2009 in the semifinals.
The Mountain Hawks finish the season 19-10, 10-5 in the Patriot League, its best overall and league record since 2002 when Lehigh went 21-13 (11-5 PL).
In the first set Saturday, Lehigh and Army were knotted at 11-11 but the Black Knights slowly pulled away as they went on a quick 5-1 run. The Mountain Hawks got as close as three, down 18-15 but couldn’t get over the hump as Army won the opening set 25-19.
Lehigh had 11 kills and four errors and 41 attacks for a .171 hitting percentage while Army had 16 kills and just one error and 39 attacks for a .385 hitting percentage.
It was the same story in the second set as Army held a 12-10 advantage halfway through the set, but then the Black Knights used a 6-3 run to extend its lead to 19-13. The Mountain Hawks would cut the deficit to four 22-18 but couldn’t continue the run as Army won three of the final four points to win the set 25-19.
The Mountain Hawks fought hard in the third set as Lehigh was hoping to force a fourth set. The team’s exchanged points the whole set. Lehigh hadn’t trailed by more than three until at 21-19, Army scored four straight points for the 25-19 straight-set victory.
Lehigh finished the match hitting .118 to Army’s .271. Along with Poole and McCutchan, senior Angelika Kopacz added six kills and Lehigh’s only two service aces while sophomore Rachel Charles had 22 digs.
Army was led by Megan Wilton and Margaux Jarko as both had 12 kills apiece as Jarko added 21 kills for the double-double while Rachel Willis had 10 kills.
Despite the loss, Lehigh had a historic regular season handing American its first-ever three-set loss in a regular season match since the Eagles joined the Patriot League in 2001, swept Bucknell for the first time since 2002 and beat Colgate for the first time since 2004.
"I think it was a good year and I am happy with it for my first year in the Patriot League," said Bertucci. "I'm happy with how our team developed over the season and any time you finish just one win short of a 20-win season, it's a good year."
A number of Lehigh players were recognized by the league on Tuesday. Charles was named the Libero of the Year while Poole was named to the First Team All-League and Kopacz and Kudirka were both named to the Second Team All-League. The following day, sophomore Amanda Clark was named to the Academic All-League Team.
In the other semifinal, No. 1 American defeated No. 4 Colgate as the Eagles will take on Army in the Championship Match Sunday at 2 p.m.