BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Led by sophomore Jade Van Streepen and junior Amanda Clark’s eight kills apiece, the Lehigh volleyball team knocked off the rival Leopards in straight sets for the second time this season, improving to 6-4 in Patriot League play. The Mountain Hawks held commanding leads in each set, winning each game by a minimum of seven points. Lehigh will now turn its attention to American for next Friday’s crucial Patriot League tilt.
"I think we started out with a 100 percent effort and came out aggressive in the first game and that really set the tone for us," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "I was really happy with how we started in terms of our effort and our aggressiveness. That’s something we’re really focusing on right now."
The first set started with the teams locked at three points apiece before the Mountain Hawks rattled off seven-straight for a 10-3 advantage, forcing a Lafayette timeout. Out of the break, Lafayette scored the next point, but the Mountain Hawks kept the pressure on the Leopards, opening up a 14-5 lead after a 4-1 run. The Leopards crept back into the set, closing the gap to three points at 16-13, forcing Lehigh to burn a timeout. Out of the break, the Mountain Hawks stepped on the gas yet again, starting a 6-2 run to gain a 22-15 lead, capped by a kill from freshman Ana Vrhel. From there, Lehigh closed out the match splitting the last six points for a 25-18 win.
With a 1-0 advantage in the match, Lehigh opened up a 10-5 lead out of the gates, but Lafayette rattled off five-consecutive points to knot the match at 10 points apiece. The match remained close, but Lehigh managed a 16-12 lead after an ace by junior Courtney McCutchan, forcing the Leopards to burn a timeout. Lafayette took the next point, but Lehigh proceeded to take three-straight, capped by a kill from Clark for the 19-13 lead. A 6-5 run closed out the set, ending on a kill by junior Paige Kruse as the Mountain Hawks took a 2-0 advantage in the match, courtesy of a 25-18 set win.
After the break, the third set began with the teams trading points until the score reached 6-6 after a controversial call that ended Lafayette’s way. Lehigh responded by scoring 12-consecutive points to open a commanding lead at 18-6, capped by a kill from senior Taylor Poole as the Mountain Hawks could taste the sweep of the rival Leopards. Lafayette broke the streak with a point, but the Mountain Hawks responded with two more for a 20-7 advantage after another kill by Clark. After a 10-4 run by the Leopards to close the gap to 24-17, Lehigh ended the match when sophomore southpaw Kaylynn Genemaras connected on a kill for the 25-17 victory and the second sweep of the Leopards this season.
"Later in the match, I saw the most intense Lehigh team that we’ve had all season for a streak of 12 points," said Bertucci. "Rachel added a lot of ball control for our team as most of her balls are right where you want them to be and allows us to play our offense the way we want to."
"It was really exciting and nice to see us finally clicking point-after-point and we kept putting the ball away," said Charles.
Following Clark and Van Streepen, Vrhel ended the match with seven kills, while Genemaras and McCutchan added six apiece. Freshman Amy Matula led the way with 18 assists, followed by junior Dana Raber with 15 of her own on the night. Junior libero Rachel Charles led the Mountain Hawks’ serving game with three aces and, yet again, was the rock on the defensive side of the ball with a game-high 17 digs. Poole blocked a game-high four attacks the lead the Lehigh point protection.
The Mountain Hawks faithful was in full force tonight, as 281 strong filled Leeman-Turner Arena to cheer on Lehigh as it began a critical stretch of five home Patriot League matches tonight.
"The turn-out was great," said Charles. "We saw a lot of student-athletes out here supporting us and hopefully we can continue with the crowds and the pink night was great to support breast cancer research."
"The student-athletes filled the gym and it was really inspiring for our team and I think the home crowd is really going to help us down the stretch of these final games," Bertucci added.
With our upcoming games, we need to do the things in practice the way we know we need to do them and increasing the intensity in practice so that we can maintain the intensity that you saw tonight throughout a full game and then eventually, a full match," Bertucci continued.
The Mountain Hawks will now await a match with American next Friday, November 2 for a tilt slated for a 7 p.m. start inside Leeman-Turner Arena.