Posted: 09/08/2011 | Last updated: September 8, 2011 at 03:31 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team hits the road this weekend to Brooklyn, N.Y. for the Long Island Invitational. The Mountain Hawks will play two matches in three days with the first coming against head coach Bob Bertucci’s former team Temple on Friday at 2 p.m. Lehigh will take on host LIU on Saturday at 10 a.m. followed by BIG EAST opponent Syracuse at 3 p.m.
"This weekend is especially exciting for me," said Bertucci. "Playing my past team will be pretty exciting and it will be an interesting and fun match. Our girls are starting to talk about it and I know Temple is as well."
Bertucci manned the sidelines for 16 seasons for Temple where he won 20 or more matches in a season nine teams and collected 315 victories making him the program’s career leader in wins. He guided Temple to four A-10 championships and four subsequent NCAA tournament berths, with his 2002 squad reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Bertucci – a three-time A-10 Coach of the Year - led Temple to 14 straight A-10 tournaments and won three straight A-10 East Division crows from 2005-2007.
Bertucci isn’t the only member of the coaching staff with a connection to Temple. Lehigh assistant coach Yun Yi Zhang served as a student assistant coach for Temple last season and played for the Owls for three years under Bertucci.
This season, Temple is 3-3. It won its season opener against Stony Brook in five sets and then fell to South Carolina and Penn before beating La Salle in four sets. After a straight-set loss to Villanova, Temple is coming off a sweep of Rider. Collin Wallace leads the way for the Owls as she ranks third in the A-10 conference with 4.18 kills per set.
Lehigh will then take the court the following morning to face host Long Island University. While the Blackbirds record may not jump out on paper at 1-6, it has already played two ranked opponents (No. 1 California, No 20 San Diego) and has also competed against the ACC’s Virginia and BIG EAST member Seton Hall.
The Invitational will mark Long Island’s first home matches of the season. The team is led by Hanna Gibeu and Annika Foit who have 3.82 kills per set and 3.05 kills per set respectively which ranks them third and sixth respectively in the Northeast Conference. Foit’s hitting percentage of .275 ranks her fourth in the conference.
Later that day, Lehigh’s weekend will conclude with BIG EAST opponent Syracuse. Syracuse has a 5-2 record this season and is coming off a 2-2 weekend road trip in Utah where it took second place at the Utah State Tournament with a 2-1 record, and then traveled to Orem, Utah for a single match with Utah Valley which Syracuse lost in five sets.
Syracuse is led by Noemie Lefebvre and Sam Hinz. Lefebvre leads the team with 3.50 kills per set which ranks her tenth in the BIG EAST while Hinz is leading the BIG EAST in total blocks (48) and blocks per set (1.78). Hinz is part of a defensive effort that has Syracuse leading the BIG EAST in blocks with 3.48 per set and opponent hitting percentage holding teams to .103.
Lehigh is coming off a five-set loss to NJIT and will look to rebound against three tough opponents.
"We are going to get a very good test this weekend against three very good teams," said Bertucci. "We’ve been preparing since preseason for things that we have to do on our side and that’s the most important thing right now. We have to focus on what we have to do to play well and get better."
This will be the second of three straight weekend tournaments for Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks went 3-1 at the James Madison Invitational last weekend and next weekend, Lehigh will host the Lehigh/Lafayette Invitational at Leeman-Turner Arena.
Live stats will be available for all three matches.