Posted: 09/15/2012 | Last updated: September 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas – The Lehigh volleyball team dropped both of its games on Saturday, first to No. 3 Southern California (USC) before falling to host Texas Christian (TCU) in a Saturday night showdown. In the afternoon, the Mountain Hawks fell to the nationally-ranked Women of Troy in straight sets before losing to TCU in the nightcap, 3-0.
"We came out against USC and played them point-for-point in the first game and executed the game plan perfectly," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "It was a similar start to TCU but we’re just not used to playing at that intensity consistently. You have to do that to be successful against the better teams in the country."
The Mountain Hawks opened their Saturday doubleheader with a 3-0 loss to No. 3 USC in a hard-fought match. In the first set, the Mountain Hawks and Women of Troy started the set trading points before bein tied at eight. USC was then able to score three-straight points to make the set 11-8. From there the Mountain Hawks would trail the remainder of the match, despite getting the score as close as 21-17 courtesy of a kill by senior Taylor Poole. USC took the set by a final score of 25-18 when senior Katie Fuller recorded a kill for the 25th point.
The second set started with USC taking a 12-4 lead at the start. The Mountain Hawks would go on a 4-1 run to make the score as close as 13-8 after a kill by junior Amanda Clark, but from there the Women of Troy would not allow Lehigh to come any closer, commanding at least a six-point lead throughout the rest of the set. USC would go up 2-0 in the match after the 25-14 set two win.
Southern California started the third set scoring the first four points but the Mountain Hawks battled back, going on a 4-2 run to make the score 6-4. From there, the Trojans went on a 14-3 run to take a seven-point lead at 20-7. Lehigh would score just two more points in the match, as USC swept the Mountain Hawks in straight sets after the 25-9 win.
"We had great games from Amanda Clark throughout the whole tournament," said Bertucci. "Our middles didn’t produce as well but that’s because they got double-teamed in part because of their effectiveness the first night and their play all season."
Clark finished the match with a team-high seven kills while also posting a team-best .236 hitting percentage. Junior Dana Raber assisted on 11 kills, while freshman Amy Matula registered eight assists. On defense, junior libero Rachel Charles recorded 15 digs, while junior Courtney McCutchan followed with eight digs.
In the second half of the Saturday doubleheader, the Mountain Hawks took on a Horn Frogs team that came into the match with a 10-2 record. The Horn Frogs jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, but the Mountain Hawks would battle back once again on the day to tie the set at five apiece. The two teams would tie several more times before Lehigh was able to take a 14-10 lead. TCU would play from behind and eventually force a tie at 17 before finishing the set on an 8-3 run to take the first set, 25-20. Clark and McCutchan would each register three kills in the opening set for the Mountain Hawk offense.
In the second set, Lehigh would race to a 4-0 lead at the start but TCU would climb back to tie the game at four. From there, TCU would go on a 10-4 run to give the Horn Frogs a 14-8 lead after an attack error by freshman Ana Vrhel. Lehigh would battle with TCU, making the set as close as 18-16 but the Horn Frogs would prove to be too much in the second set, finishing on a 7-3 run to take the second set 25-19 and a 2-0 lead in the match. Through two sets, Clark would continue to lead the Lehigh attack with six kills, followed by McCutchan and sophomore Jade Van Streepen with four apiece.
The third set started with TCU gaining a 4-2 lead and from there would go on an 8-3 run to take a 12-5 advantage over the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh would get the next two points to cut the TCU lead to five but the Horn Frogs would rattle off four straight points to take a 16-7 lead. Lehigh would fight but TCU proved to be too much, as the Horn Frogs would finish the match on a 9-6 run to take the third set 25-13 and the match, 3-0.
"I thought we were playing them really close, but I just think we made a few too many mistakes," said Bertucci. "It wasn’t any one mistake; we have to just learn how to sustain the intensity throughout the match."
Clark led the Lehigh offense against TCU, recorded nine kills, followed by Van Streepen with six and McCutchan with five. On defense, Charles finished the match with 14 digs, while Raber chipped in nine of her own along with a team-best 12 assists. Raber and McCutchan each collected three serving aces to help the Mountain Hawk attack.
For her efforts throughout the tournament, Rachel Charles was selected to the All-Tournament Team. It is her second selection to an All-Tournament Team this season after being selected to the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup All-Tournament Team at the University of Virginia.
"She played outstanding and was unbelievable on defense," said Bertucci. "I think when she’s playing like that it really helps the team and was pretty consistent with passing."
The Mountain Hawks have steadily improved, due in large part to the team coming together and the talent-level of the competition Lehigh has faced thus far this season.
"I think we’re moving in the right direction but we have a good amount of work to do," said Bertucci. "I was happy with our serve-receives and our backcourt defense, but we still have some work to do with our frontcourt defense and we have to continue to improve our offense. We’ve made strides over the past two weeks."
Lehigh will break for two days before the Mountain Hawks will hit the road again to Princeton N.J. to take on Ivy League-foe Princeton at 7 p.m. inside Dillon Gymnasium.