WASHINGTON, D.C. – A year after handing the Eagles their only Patriot League loss of the season, the Lehigh volleyball team earned a win in hostile territory as the Mountain Hawks prevailed in five sets over American for their second Patriot League victory of the season. The win marks the first time Lehigh has ever won in Washington, D.C. and just the fourth time the Mountain Hawks have been able to beat the Eagles in program history.
"I think our team is starting to learn how to win games," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "Last night we got really close but we kind of froze and hoped that we didn’t lose the game. Tonight, we kept playing hard and kept playing to win the game."
The first set started with neither team able to gain an extensive advantage as the squads remained tied through the first 18 points, 9-9. The Eagles were then able to rattle off four consecutive points to take a 13-9 lead off an attack error by the Mountain Hawks, but Lehigh rallied to go on a 10-6 run to tie the game at 19 apiece. American would score the next point, but then the Mountain Hawks finished the set on a 6-1 run to win the first set, 25-21, and take a 1-0 match lead.
The second set started much like the first as the teams were tied at 11 out of the gates. Lehigh would then open up a three-point lead at 17-14 when sophomore Jade Van Streepen recorded a service ace. Lehigh was able to extend its lead to five points at 21-16 but the Eagles battled back on a 6-1 run to tie the set at 22. American would then score the next three points to even the match at one game apiece, 25-22.
The Mountain Hawks raced out to a 15-7 lead in the third set, capped off by a kill from junior Amanda Clark. Lehigh would sustain its lead and withstand a mild comeback from the Eagles to win the third set handily, 25-17, scoring the last two points on kills by sophomore Kaylynn Genemaras.
"Kaylynn Genemaras played lights out tonight," said Bertucci. "She was beating the block and played one of the best matches I’ve ever seen her play."
Set four started with American taking the first five points and opening up a 10-2 lead with its back against the wall. Lehigh battled and eventually got the game within one point at 19-18, courtesy of a kill by junior Dana Raber, but American would put the set away on a 6-2 run to even the match at two games apiece and force a decisive set five.
The fifth and deciding set started with the Mountain Hawks taking a 4-1 lead, forcing a timeout by the Eagles. American regrouped and cut the Lehigh lead to one point at 10-9, but the Mountain Hawks finished off the set 5-4 for a 15-13 win, capped by a kill from senior Taylor Poole.
"I think the key thing is American is a good program each year and everybody in the Patriot League aspires to beat them," said Bertucci. "What’s more important to me is how the girls won the match tonight."
The 3-2 win was Lehigh’s second Patriot League victory of the season in their second five-set match in as many days, falling to Navy last night.
"Last night we had a disappointing loss and tonight we played well all throughout the match," said Bertucci. "I think being able to bounce back off of that disappointment is huge."
Genemaras led the way for the Mountain Hawk attack, collecting a game-high 15 kills, while Poole and Clark added 12 apiece to the offense. Raber recorded 27 assists, while freshman Amy Matula registered 25 of her own. On defense, junior Rachel Charles had a game-high 29 digs, while Poole led the blocking game with seven total blocks, followed by Clark with six.
"This win should give us a little confidence going into Lafayette," said Bertucci. "I know that we have a tough match coming up and it will be emotional but we need to continue to play a clean game against a quality opponent."
Lehigh will now break until October 4 when it travels to rival Lafayette for a Thursday night showcase with the Patriot League-foe. Game time has been changed to 7:30 p.m. in Easton, Pa.