CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The Lehigh volleyball team fell in both halves of a twin bill on Saturday afternoon, to Virginia and Western Kentucky, in the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup Tournament at the University of Virginia. The Mountain Hawks held leads but were unable to hang on for wins against the Cavaliers and Hilltoppers.
Though the Mountain Hawks dropped two games today, head coach Bob Bertucci was pleased with his team’s efforts in the serving and passing game. He knows improvement will be made, but was happy with a few areas of his team’s play.
“The bright spots for us were our servicing and passing," said Bertucci. “No matter who we played, we were probably the best passing team in the tournament.
“I also think our serving was very good,” he continued. “Our ace-to-error ratio was pretty much always on target and we attacked with the serve pretty well. That’s a big equalizer for us in our miss-matches against the bigger teams.”
The Mountain Hawks were defeated in straight sets by Virginia in the first of two games on Saturday (25-21, 25-19, 25-14). Freshman Ana Vrhel led the Lehigh attack, registering eight kills and a .889 hitting percentage against the Cavaliers, with junior Courtney McCutchan and senior Taylor Poole following with five kills apiece. McCutchan also led the way with nine digs, while junior Rachel Charles finished with seven. Freshman Amy Matula collected 12 assists and junior Dana Raber chipped in with 10 more.
In the first set, the Mountain Hawks’ lead reached as high as four points when they took a 7-3 lead early, but eventually fell behind 16-12 later in the set. Lehigh pulled to within two points to get the score to 21-19, but Virginia rattled off three straight points to finish the set 25-21 and gain a 1-0 advantage.
Lehigh fell behind by as many as nine points in the second set when the score reached 23-14, but the Mountain Hawks rallied to score four straight points to get the set to within five at 23-18. Virginia was too much for the Mountain Hawks in the second set as the Cavaliers finished the set off by a final score of 25-19.
The Mountain Hawks dropped the third set 25-14 which gave them their second loss on the young season. Lehigh fell behind early in the set, 8-2, but pulled within two points and made the score 12-10. Virginia then pulled away, scoring six straight points and would hold the lead for the remainder of the set, giving them the victory.
Lehigh struggled offensively against the bigger teams in the Tournament. The smaller Mountain Hawk squad was able to play with the competition, but unable to take over the matches.
“I think our weakest area was offensively,” said Bertucci. “We just didn’t have the firepower that we needed. I think we have to sure-up our front line and I think everything else will play itself out.”
In the second half of the doubleheader, the Mountain Hawks were unable to capitalize on their early leads and were defeated by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in straight sets, 25-14, 25-8, 25-18. Lehigh was able to take a lead out of the gate, but the Hilltoppers played from behind and took each set for the 3-0 victory.
In set one, the Mountain Hawks took a 1-0 lead, but were unable to remain in the driver’s seat as the Hilltoppers came back and held their lead the rest of the set. Western Kentucky put together a four-point run to make the score 17-9, and held on to win the game, 25-14.
The second set had much of the same feel as Lehigh jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but after several runs by the Hilltoppers, dropped the game, 25-8. The Mountain Hawks tied the game at three, but Western Kentucky took the next five points and never looked back.
Lehigh again took an early lead in set three, earning the game’s first two points, but again fell behind Western Kentucky. The Mountain Hawks battled back and tied the game at seven and again at 13, but eventually were extinguished by the Hilltoppers, 25-18. Lehigh made the game as close as 21-18, but Western Kentucky scored the final four points to take the match.
McCutchan led the way with a team-high 10 kills, followed by Poole with five and sophomore Jade Van Streepen and junior Amanda Clark had three apiece. Raber recorded 19 assists, while Charles collected 14 digs for the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh used a variety of line-ups throughout the Tournament and Bertucci hopes that the ability to use multiple players will allow him to foresee potential line-ups when his Mountain Hawks start Patriot League play on Sept. 21 against Colgate.
“We had the opportunity to put together a lot of different line-ups with a lot of different personnel,” said Bertucci. “We were trying to shape out how we’re going to play this season when we get into Patriot League and we’re going to continue to do that all over the nonleague season.”
Next up for the Mountain Hawks will be Big East-foe Rutgers. Lehigh has played multiple premiere volleyball teams thus far this season and the Scarlet Knights will be the next test for the Mountain Hawks.
“Our match against Rutgers will be a good competitive match, facing a Big East school,” said Bertucci. “It’s something I can compare to last year so I’m looking forward to that and then we’re off to a tournament that is going to challenge us even more.”
Lehigh will be back in action when the Mountain Hawks host Rutgers on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. at Leeman-Turner Arena inside Grace Hall. Over the break, Bertucci hopes to use the time off to regroup his squad and improve all areas of its game.
“Going forward, we have a full week to prepare for our next competition and I think that’s a blessing in disguise because I think there are a lot of things that we do need to work on and get ironed out,” said Bertucci.