BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team earned its second Patriot League Tournament berth under head coach Bob Bertucci on Friday night after a 3-1 victory over the Crusaders. The Mountain Hawks rallied after dropping the first set to rattle off three-consecutive wins, capped by a kill from sophomore southpaw Kaylynn Genemaras.
"Holy Cross played unbelievable and exploited every weakness we had," said Bertucci. "That forced us to play a completely different game. This one was tough to come back on."
After starting the first set with a 4-1 lead out of the gates, Holy Cross slowly crept back into the set and eventually was able to knot the score at 14 apiece after an attack error by the Mountain Hawks as the Crusaders were riding a 13-10 run. Lehigh relinquished the lead briefly at 17-16, but were able to tie the game at 17-17 after a service error by Holy Cross. The Crusaders took the next two points which forced a Lehigh timeout as the Mountain Hawks attempted to regroup. Lehigh battled back to tie the game at 20, but that would be the last draw in the match as the Crusaders finished on a 5-2 run, never allowing Lehigh to take another lead, for the 25-22 win and a 1-0 advantage in the match.
Needing a strong start in set two, the Mountain Hawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but again the Crusaders were able to sneak back into the set and after using a 6-2 run were able to tie the game at seven. Lehigh proceeded to go on an 8-2 run after an attack error by the Crusaders to take a 15-9 lead, forcing a Holy Cross timeout. Out of the break, Holy Cross took the next point, but Lehigh was able to knock down a couple of kills and used a block assist from freshman Ana Vrhel and Genemaras to take a 21-14 advantage, forcing another Crusader timeout. Lehigh finished on a 4-2 run for the 25-16 set win to level the match at one game apiece going into the break.
The Mountain Hawks gained an early advantage in the third set after starting out with a 15-9 lead, capped by a kill from Vrhel which forced a Crusader timeout. After meeting, Holy Cross scored the next two points to pull within four, but freshman Leah Turner got the serve back on the Lehigh half of the court after a kill set-up by junior setter Dana Raber. With freshman Amy Matula serving, Lehigh was able to open up a 20-11 lead which forced the Crusaders to burn their last timeout of the set. The Crusaders rallied to go on a 10-3 run and pull within two points at 23-21. After the game reached 24-23 in favor of Lehigh, Turner was able to finish off the set with a kill for the 25-23 win and a put Holy Cross’ back against the wall entering the fourth set.
With the match on the line, Holy Cross came out fighting in the fourth set, eventually obtaining a 12-10 lead. From there, the Crusaders scored four of the next six points for a 16-12 lead, forcing a Lehigh timeout. Out of the timeout, Holy Cross took the next point to open up a five-point advantage on Lehigh, but the Mountain Hawks again fought their way back into the match as they rallied to knot the game at 19 after a 7-2 run capped by a kill from junior Courtney McCutchan. Lehigh finished off the match on a 6-3 run as Genemaras knocked down the kill that sent Lehigh into the Patriot League Tournament with a 25-22 set win and a 3-1 match victory.
"We tried to change our offense a little because they were digging a lot in the back court," said Bertucci. "The story tonight was Kaylynn because she played lights out tonight."
Senior Taylor Poole led the Lehigh attack with 13 kills, while Genemaras and Vrhel were each in double digits with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Vrhel hit a team-high .350 on the night, while Poole hit .300 for the Mountain Hawk offense. Matula led the setting game with 26 assists, while Raber was right behind her with 24. On defense, junior libero Rachel Charles collected 31 digs, while Vrhel recorded six total blocks on the evening.
"We still have a match tomorrow and we’ve been focused on Army," said Bertucci. "We need to play them a lot tougher than we did the last time because that is a very good team. They are one of the top teams of the Patriot League, but it’s great to be back in the tournament and hopefully the experience of our team will help us this year."
Lehigh will take on Army tomorrow afternoon at Leeman-Turner Arena inside Grace Hall as the Patriot League tilt is set for a 4 p.m. first serve.