ANNAPOLIS, Md. – After taking a two-set advantage to start the match, the Lehigh volleyball team dropped a heartbreaking five-set duel with Navy, 3-2. The Mids reeled off three consecutive sets including a 17-15 set five win to seal a Patriot League victory. The Mountain Hawks will now travel to American for another Patriot League game Saturday.
Lehigh started the first set by taking an 8-1 advantage capped off by a kill from senior Taylor Poole. The Mids would rally as they chipped away at the Mountain Hawk lead to get the game to 20-19 but Lehigh would finish on a 5-2 run to take set one, 25-21, courtesy of a block by Poole and junior Amanda Clark.
The second set started as a closer match, with neither team able to take a sizeable lead in the beginning. The game reached a draw at 10-10 before Lehigh went on a 10-6 run to take a 20-16 lead after a block by sophomore Jade Van Streepen and freshman Ana Vrhel. The Mountain Hawks again finished off the set, this time on a 5-1 run and took the 25-17 win into the break, up two games on the Mids.
"I thought we were playing really well the first two games, especially game two, said Bertucci. "It showed that we were on top of our game and I thought we were going to finish them off."
From that point, Navy turned up its game, starting in the third set. The teams traded points for much of the match, with neither squad able to take a commanding lead. The Mids and Mountain Hawks would play to a tie at 18 points apiece before Navy finished off the match on a 7-5 run to cut the Lehigh lead in half, 2-1.
"They made some adjustments and did a much better job covering," said Bertucci. "It was significantly different in terms of our blocking game in sets one and two compared to three four and five."
In the fourth set, the two teams remained close until about half way through the set when Navy went on a 10-4 run to take a commanding 20-13 lead. The Mids finished the set on a 5-3 run to take the set 25-16 and force a decisive set five.
"We had the lead when we switched sides but just had a hard time putting it away," said Bertucci. "We just had trouble putting the ball away at the end of sets. That’s a credit to how they played."
The fifth set was a battle between the two squads as both teams realized that a Patriot League victory was now on the line. Up 8-7 as the squads switched sides, Lehigh and Navy traded points again until they were tied at 10 apiece. From there, the Mountain Hawks took the next two points but Navy rallied to tie the set at 15. The Mids were able to take the next two points to give them a 17-15 victory and a 3-2 win.
The Mountain Hawks were led by Poole and Van Streepen with 14 kills apiece. Poole also hit a team-best .407 throughout the match, while sophomore Kaylyn Genemeras added 11 kills to the offense. On defense, junior Courtney McCutchan collected 16 digs on the night, while junior Rachel Charles added 14 of her own. Poole led the way with five total blocks, while Van Streepen, Clark and freshman Ana Vrhel each recorded three apiece.
"I think both our middle played very well offensively," said Bertucci. "Taylor played tremendous on the right side and was making some good blocks. Jade did a nice job on the outside and played pretty solid throughout the whole match."
The Mountain Hawks will now need to regroup as they will be tasked with seven more road games, including six more matches against Patriot League opponents in the weeks to come.
"We gave it our best shot and just fell a little short," said Bertucci. "Tomorrow we play American and it’s going to be a hostile environment. There’s no question it’s going to be a tough match. We need to recover but I think we can do it because our team is getting better every time we play."
Lehigh will continue its road trip when it travels to face American on Saturday for a match scheduled for 4 p.m. in Washington, D.C.