BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After dropping to American a night ago, the Lehigh volleyball team rebounded with a straight-set sweep of the Midshipmen on Saturday afternoon. With two 25-21 set wins giving them a 2-0 advantage in the match, the Mountain Hawks won a dramatic 27-25 set three for the match victory. Senior Taylor Poole led the Mountain Hawks with 11 kills and a .333 hitting percentage in one of the most important matches of the season.
"Before the match, I talked with Taylor and told her she had to step up and lead by example today and she did just what I asked her to do," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "Her play created a situation where Navy had to double-team her and that opened up some space for our outsides to be more effective."
Lehigh jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, but the Midshipmen rallied to knot the set at eight apiece. From there, Lehigh went on a 12-3 run to take a commanding 20-11 advantage in the match after a kill by sophomore Jade Van Streepen, forcing a Navy timeout. Out of the break, the Mids went on a run of their own, scoring seven of the next nine points to pull within four at 22-18. The Mountain Hawks regrouped and finished off the set by splitting the final six points for a 25-21 win, capped by a kill from Poole.
The second set began as a tightly played match, but the Mountain Hawks were able to gain an 11-9 advantage after a kill by junior Courtney McCutchan, forcing a Navy timeout. Lehigh was able to maintain a small lead throughout the match, never taking more than a four-point advantage as the score reached 21-19. The Mountain Hawks finished the set by taking four of the last six points for the 25-21 set win and a 2-0 match lead after a kill by freshman Ana Vrhel ended the second set.
With their backs against the wall, Navy came out in the third set playing the Mountain Hawks tough as the Mids gained a 13-10 lead that forced Lehigh to call a timeout. Lehigh then began to chip away at Navy’s lead, battling back to make the score 21-20 after an ace by freshman Leah Turner. With Turner still serving, Lehigh rattled off two-straight points courtesy of an attack error by the Mids and another ace by Turner as the Mountain Hawks took a 22-21 lead. The two teams traded points as the scoring went on the seesaw until it was locked at 24 apiece. Navy took a 25-24 lead after a Lehigh attack error, forcing the Mountain Hawks to call a timeout. Out of the break, Poole and McCutchan combined to block Navy’s attack, giving Lehigh a jolt of energy and momentum. After an attack error by the Mids made the score 26-25, the emotional set was capped off by an ace from McCutchan as the Mountain Hawks took the 27-25 set win and a 3-0 sweep of the Midshipmen.
"The last game was very emotional," said Bertucci. "After the couple of contested calls, the emotions were really high and I think Navy played really well in the third game. That put a lot of pressure on us, but I think our girls responded extremely well.
"Taylor’s block to tie the score at 25 all was huge," Bertucci continued. "That changed the whole game for us and you could see it on the girls’ faces. They knew they could win this match and with the help of Courtney’s tactical serves, they executed perfectly."
Along with Poole, sophomore Jade Van Streepen contributed eight kills to the Mountain Hawk attack, while sophomore Kaylynn Genemaras knocked down six of her own. Junior Dana Raber led the setting game with 18 assists, while freshman Amy Matula added 14. On defense, junior libero Rachel Charles steadied a strong Lehigh defense with 21 digs to set up the Mountain Hawk attack. Poole finished the game with four total blocks to lead Lehigh’s point protection, while Turner assisted on three blocks of her own.
"Leah played well last night and today," said Bertucci. "She came off the bench and gave us everything we were looking for. I thought she had a key stretch of serves that really helped us out and got us back into the game.
"We still have to come out strong against Holy Cross now," Bertucci continued. "Right now this was a huge win and it feels great."
With the win, Lehigh takes a one-game lead over Navy in the Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks will be back on the court at Leeman-Turner Arena inside Grace Hall next Friday when they will host the Crusaders of Holy Cross at 7 p.m.