BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In front of a rocking crowd at Leeman-Turner Arena, the Lehigh volleyball team earned its first Patriot League victory of 2012 over the Bison of Bucknell, 3-1. After dropping the first set, Lehigh rallied and spun off three set wins to take the match and a valuable Patriot League victory. Junior Amanda Clark starred for the Mountain Hawks, leading the attack with a game-high 16 kills on the night.
"The crowd really helped us tonight as it usually does," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "We had a lot of our fans come back and they were louder than ever. We struggled in that first game and had a tough time in the second game, but I think the crowd helped us over the hump and kept us motivated."
In the first set, the Mountain Hawks ran out to a 6-3 lead to start the match but the Bison would score the next seven points to grab a 10-6 lead. Lehigh rallied to tie the game at 14 after a plethora of kills by multiple Mountain Hawks. From that point, the two teams would tie six times until the score was 20-20. The Bison were then able to score three consecutive points to take a 23-20 lead, and would finish the set by scoring two of the next three points to pick up the win and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second set started with Lehigh taking a 10-4 lead out of the gate, but again the Bison would battle back to tie the game at 13 after a 9-3 run. The two teams would trade points and tie three times until the score reached 16-16. From there, Lehigh rattled off four straight points after multiple attack errors by Bucknell. The teams would trade the last 10 points but that would be enough for the Mountain Hawks to take the set, 25-21, and even the match at one game apiece.
The two teams played each other tough to start the third set until they were tied at six points. Lehigh then took a 7-6 lead after two Amy Matula serving aces. Bucknell then went on a five point run to take a 12-7 lead in the set but the Mountain Hawks scored four straight points of their own to get to within one point of the Bison at 12-11. From there, Lehigh was able to tie the game at 15 courtesy of two kills by senior Taylor Poole. After trading points, the Mountain Hawks were able to rally from a 21-20 deficit after three blocks by the combination of junior Paige Kruse and freshman Ana Vrhel to take a 23-21 lead. Lehigh was able to close out the set by scoring the final two points needed to take a 25-22 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
"The blocking is something that we’re working on and after tonight’s match it’s something that the ladies are starting to figure out," said Bertucci. "They really did a tremendous job and it was probably their best game blocking all year. That was a thing that really turned the tide in the match against Bucknell."
Lehigh dominated at the start of the fourth set after racing to a 10-2 lead courtesy of two kills by Vrhel. Lehigh would not falter and continued its offensive attack with kills from multiple Mountain Hawks to take a 20-9 lead in the match. Lehigh finished, from that point, on a 5-4 run to take the set, 25-22, and the match, 3-1.
Vrhel continued her impressive attack, ending the match with a team-high .438 hitting percentage, while she and Poole followed Clark with eight kills apiece to help the Lehigh attack. Junior setter Dana Raber collected a team-best 38 assists on the night, while freshman Amy Matula and sophomore Jade Van Streepen registered two aces apiece to lead the Mountain Hawks’ serving game. On defense, junior libero Rachel Charles collected 20 digs, while Vrhel led the blocking game with a team-high six total blocks.
"Ana is really doing a great job for us as a freshman," said Bertucci. "She is really putting out the energy and intensity that you need. She’s putting numbers up there that would expect from a junior."
After the two home contests this weekend, the Mountain Hawks will begin a tough stretch in their season as they will play away from the friendly confines of Leeman-Turner Arena for their next eight games.
"We have a real tough weekend coming up," said Bertucci. "Navy is a new team and they look like they’re playing pretty well right now and of course American is one of the toughest teams in the conference. We know both of those teams are going to give us a run for our money."
The Mountain Hawks will now begin an eight-game road trip that includes seven Patriot League contests, starting on Friday Sept. 28 with a match against Navy that is slated to start at 7 p.m. in Annapolis, Md.