BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team opened its 2012 season with a 3-1 victory over Rider Sunday night inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. The Mountain Hawks took a 2-0 lead early in the match and put the Broncs away in the fourth set, 25-21, for the win. Lehigh was led by senior Taylor Poole who recorded 14 kills and ended the match with a .444 hitting percentage.
Lehigh started the contest strong, earning the first two sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-17, but in the third set, Rider was able to sneak away a 26-24 victory after the Mountain Hawks gave away a late 23-20 lead. Head coach Bob Bertucci was pleased with his team’s performance but realizes there was a slight hiccup in that third set.
“I thought we started well and I think we caught Rider late out of the gate,” said Bertucci. “But if you’re up by two games, teams tend to take a little relaxation break because they think they are way ahead and that gave Rider a chance to get back into it.”
In the first set, Lehigh was able to push its lead to 19-11 after a run of four straight points, capped by a kill from freshman Ana Vrhel. The Mountain Hawks ended the set with a three-point run to take the set, 25-16.
The second set started with Lehigh falling behind 2-0 but the Mountain Hawks rebounded and scored six straight points to take a commanding 17-8 lead, and went on to win 25-17.
After taking the 2-0 lead in the match, Lehigh fell behind in the third set and continued to trail the Broncs until the Mountain Hawks battled back to take a 21-20 lead. The lead was short-lived as Rider battled back to make the score 23-23. The Mountain Hawks served for the match up 24-23 but Rider reeled off three straight points to to win 26-24.
The Mountain Hawks bounced back in the fourth set and after falling behind 5-0, rallied for a 25-21 victory. Lehigh took its first lead after scoring five straight points to go ahead 16-14, a lead the Mountain Hawks would not relinquish.
Lehigh found its offense in the middle of the court with sophomore Jade Van Streepen collecting 15 kills on the night to go along with Poole’s 14. Vrhel added eight kills in her debut, while junior Courtney McCutchan recorded 20 digs in the match. Freshman Amy Matula ended with a match-high 26 assists, followed by junior Dana Raber with 22.
“We played a lot of players and I was happy with their performance,” said Bertucci. “Ana played tremendous in the middle and Amy Matula did very well setting in the first two games. She (Matula) got a little shaky in game three but settled down and played fine in game four.”
Bertucci was happy with the play of Poole as the senior racked up five aces and proved much needed leadership and stability to the floor. She also provided the match point in the fourth set to deliver a win for Lehigh in its opener.
“That’s the kind of leadership that we need from our senior on the team,” said Bertucci. “She stepped up tonight and that’s real important.”
With the University of Virginia Tournament looming at the end of the week, coach Bertucci knows that although his team came away with the victory tonight, there is still much improvement needed in order for the Mountain Hawks to compete with the tough schedule ahead.
“We’re going to have to improve a whole lot,” said Bertucci. “Our schedule only gets tougher from here on out.”
Lehigh will open the University of Virginia Tournament on Friday when it plays Delaware at 4:30 p.m. The Mountain Hawks will return home on Sept. 11 when they host Rutgers at 5 p.m. inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.