LEWISBURG, Pa. – After dropping the first two sets to the Bison, the Lehigh volleyball team showed resiliency as it battled back to force a fifth and deciding set, but was unable to finish off the comeback as Bucknell earned the match, 3-2. The Mountain Hawks played to a hard-fought loss, but must now regroup as the team will be back in action tomorrow night when they travel to Hamilton, N.Y. to take on the Raiders of Colgate.
Bucknell’s match theme was "Rock the House Night," as the volleyball team garnered support from most of the varsity athletic teams, along with their volleyball supports to create a loud and uncomfortable playing stage for the Mountain Hawks.
"The effort was outstanding," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "We were in one of the most hostile environments I’ve ever seen. In the beginning we played pretty good, but the crowd rattled us a little bit. The girls kept fighting back all night and kept their composure most of the match."
After falling behind 8-6 to start the first set, Lehigh continued to trail as the Bison extended their lead to 15-10. From there, Lehigh battled back, closing the point gap to as close as three, but Bucknell was able to hang on for the 25-18 first set win. Junior Amanda Clark led the Lehigh offense in the set with six kills, while making just one error. Senior Taylor Poole followed with five kills, while on defense, junior libero Rachel Charles recorded a set-high 10 digs.
The second set started differently, as the Mountain Hawks raced out of the gates to a 4-1 lead. Bucknell battled back to tie the game at five, six and seven points as the two teams traded scores. Lehigh then went on a 6-1 run to open up a 13-8 lead, capped by an ace from Charles. Bucknell proceeded to go on a 10-5 run to knot the score at 18 apiece. From there, the Bison finished the set by scoring seven of the next 11 points to take the second set with a 25-22 win and a two-set lead going into the break.
In the third set, the Mountain Hawks fell behind early, 6-3, but fought back to tie the score at 12 after a kill by Clark. From there, Lehigh went on a 4-1 run to gain a three-point advantage when freshman Ana Vrhel blocked a Bison attack. The Mountain Hawks kept Bucknell at a distance, as Lehigh held a four-point lead at 19-15 after an ace by sophomore Jade Van Streepen. Bucknell scored the next three to make it a one-point game, but the Mountain Hawks were able to finish off the set on a 6-3 run, capped by a kill from Clark to earn the 25-21 win.
With their backs against the wall again, the Mountain Hawks jumped out to an 8-2 lead after a kill by junior Lizzy Silverstein. Lehigh opened up a nine-point lead, as it got the score to 12-3, but the Bison would not go away as they went on a 13-5 run to cut Lehigh’s lead to one point at 17-16. The Mountain Hawks would be able to gain a 22-19 advantage after two kills by Clark and sophomore southpaw Kaylynn Genemaras, forcing a Bucknell timeout. Out of the break, Bucknell took the next point, but that was all it would get, as Lehigh scored the next five points, which included a kill by junior Courtney McCutchan and a block-assist by Clark and Poole. With the 25-20 win, the Mountain Hawks forced a decisive set five.
"We had a few special effort plays that helped us win the fourth set," said Bertucci. "That gave us the momentum going into the fifth set."
The fifth and deciding set started with Lehigh taking a commanding 4-0 lead, courtesy of kills by Poole and Clark. Bucknell scored six of the next 10 points to pull within two at 8-6, forcing a timeout by the Mountain Hawks. Out of the break, the Bison scored the next two points to even the set at eight apiece. The two teams would trade leads but as the score reached 11-11, Poole recorded a kill to give Lehigh the 12-11 advantage. Bucknell scored the next point to knot the set at 12, but then the Bison scored the next two points to open up a 14-12 advantage. As the Mountain Hawks played for a point, the Bucknell defense was able to block the final Lehigh attack to give Bucknell the 15-12 win and take the match, 3-2.
Clark led the Lehigh attack with 19 kills on the night, hitting .293, as she was followed by Poole who registered 13 kills throughout the match. Vrhel played efficient on offense, knocking down seven balls and hitting .500 on the night as she made just one error. Junior setter Dana Raber collected 30 assists, while freshman Amy Matula contributed 24 of her own. Charles was the leader of the defense, recording a game-high 34 digs throughout the match, while Poole registered six total blocks.
"Rachel always puts out a tremendous effort and plays consistently well," said Bertucci. "She is able to control the ball well enough for our offense to play the ball. Ana played really well tonight, but we needed to give her more attempts on the attack.
"I want to see the girls come out with the same effort as they did tonight," Bertucci continued. "We have to come out aggressive and if we continue with the way we play tonight anything can happen at Colgate."
Lehigh will now travel to Hamilton, N.Y. to face the Patriot League-leading Colgate Raiders tomorrow evening for a match slated to start at 4 p.m. Tomorrow’s game will conclude an eight-game road trip that has kept the team from playing at home since September 22.