BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team clinched a Patriot League Tournament berth Friday night thanks to a straight-set victory over Bucknell. It is the Mountain Hawks’ second berth in three years and first under first-year head coach Bob Bertucci. Lehigh was led by sophomore Paige Kruse’s match-high 10 kills and was one of five Mountain Hawks with at least six kills. It was Lehigh's first season sweep of Bucknell since 2002. The Mountain Hawks defeated the Bison earlier in the season in straight sets as well.
“I think the team was really prepared for this match,” said Bertucci. “Clinching a Patriot League Tournament berth was a goal all along. We had some adversity with the power outage during the week but these women came in the gym everyday without lights and heat and had full practices. They put a lot into getting ready for this match and it showed.”
Lehigh got off to a hot start in the first set, building a 10-3 lead. The Mountain Hawks never looked back and methodically held onto the lead the entire way until Lehigh won the final three points of the game to secure the first-set victory 25-17. The Mountain Hawks had 16 kills and just five errors and 36 attack attempts for a .306 hitting percentage.
In the second set, Lehigh got off to a slow start before pulling away scoring six consecutive points to take a 14-7 lead. After exchanging several points, the Mountain Hawks put together another string of six straight points to take a 24-10 lead en route to a 25-11 second-set victory and a 2-0 lead in the match. Lehigh had 12 kills and three errors on 20 attempts for a stellar .450 hitting percentage.
The Mountain Hawks got off to a quick start in the third set, jumping out to an 11-5 lead. But Bucknell battled back to cut the lead to 14-11. Later in the set, the Bison scored three straight points to even things up at 20-20. The teams exchanged points and the match was again tied 22-22. But Lehigh managed to score three straight points, two coming off kills from Kruse and the Mountain Hawks won the set 25-22 and the match to clinch a spot in the Patriot League Tournament.
“I’m excited about that and I know the players are,” said Bertucci. “There was a lot of work though that was done by a lot of people before me and I know a lot of people who wanted this to happen.”
Lehigh finished the match with a .289 hitting percentage. Along with Kruse, senior Angelika Kopacz added eight kills while junior Taylor Poole and sophomore Courtney McCutchan both had seven kills apiece. And sophomore Amanda Clark added six kills.
Bucknell was led by Kyleigh McAhren who had a team-high five kills.
While Lehigh locked up a spot in the Patriot League Tournament, its work isn’t done yet. The Mountain Hawks will take the court Saturday at 4 p.m. to host Colgate in a match that will have tournament seeding implications. After the Raiders defeated Lafayette Friday night, both Lehigh and Colgate are tied for third place in the league.
Lehigh will be looking to avenge a loss at Colgate earlier in the season. The Mountain Hawks have had success at home this season with an 8-1 record, including going 5-1 at Leeman-Turner Arena in League matches.
Saturday’s match will also be Senior Day as Lehigh honors its two seniors Angelika Kopacz and Jessica Kudirka before the match.
“Both of those players are going to be tough to replace,” said Bertucci. “Losing a setter is like losing a quarter back and Angelika has been such a powerhouse for us physically and mentally.”
Along with LIVE stats, the match will be streamed LIVE on Lehighsports.com.