Posted: 09/18/2012 | Last updated: September 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
PRINCETON, N.J. – In its final tune-up before Patriot League play, the Lehigh volleyball team took the Princeton Tigers to five sets before the Mountain Hawks were able to take the deciding fifth set and the match for their third win of the season and second on the road. Junior Lizzy Silverstein collected a season-high 12 kills on the night to lead Lehigh to a victory over the Tigers for the second year in-a-row.
"Anytime you win it’s a great feeling, but it feels especially good when you win in five," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "It was a very challenging match for us and very hard-fought."
In the first set, the Mountain Hawks fell behind after the Tigers scored the first five points to start the match. Lehigh would fight back, but after getting the set as close as five points (10-5), Princeton finished the set on a 15-10 run, taking set one 25-15. Freshman Ana Vrhel collected three kills to pace the Lehigh attack, while Silverstein added an ace and a kill of her own.
"We didn’t get off to a great start and really didn’t hit our stride," said Bertucci. "It took us the first game to get into a rhythm. We played better in the second game and played well in the third."
Set two started with Lehigh jumping out to a 4-2 lead, but Princeton battled back to tie the set at seven. From there, the two teams would go back-and-forth, trading blows and knotting the score four times until the game reached 16-16. Princeton would go on to score three straight points, but the Mountain Hawks clawed their way back to force a 19-19 tie. After the Tigers spun off three consecutive points, Lehigh would go on a 6-1 run to take the second set and tie the game at one apiece after a Silverstein kill to cap the set.
The third set began with both teams trading points, tying eight times until the score was 13-13. Lehigh then went on a 7-1 run, courtesy of kills by four different Mountain Hawks to take a 20-14 lead. Princeton fought back to get the game as close as 24-21 but Lehigh would be too much, and after a kill by senior Taylor Poole, the Mountain Hawks would take set three, 25-21, and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Lehigh and Princeton started the fourth set with an 8-8 tie after the first 16 points. The Mountain Hawks then went on a 5-2 run to take a three-point lead at 13-10 when Poole recorded a kill off an assist from junior Dana Raber. The Tigers would not go quietly as they would outscore Lehigh on the next 13 points, 10-3, including a string of six consecutive points to take a 20-16 lead in the set. After two straight kills by Poole, the Mountain Hawks would pull to within one, 21-20, but Princeton rattled off four points in-a-row to take the set, 25-21 and force a decisive set five.
"That (The two Lehigh wins) put Princeton’s back to the wall and they battled back real well in the fourth game," said Bertucci. "I think we had opportunities to put it away, but unfortunately we didn’t and let it go into a fifth game."
The deciding fifth set started with the Mountain Hawks on a 7-3 run. The Tigers would eventually tie the set at nine points after three kills by Chelsea Parker. After the two teams traded points until a 12-12 tie, Lehigh would grab a 14-12 lead after a couple of attack errors on Princeton. With their backs against the wall, the Tigers scored two straight points to tie the set again at 14. Lehigh would then score the final two points and take the set and the match with a 16-14 win.
"In the fifth game, I think we finally approach the game with the right mindset," said Bertucci. "We came out aggressively and jumped out to a lead. After we traded points, it really became a battle as they inched back."
Clark and Silverstein led the way for the Mountain Hawk attack with 12 kills apiece on the night, followed by McCutchan with 10 and Vrhel with nine. Raber picked up 34 assists, while junior Rachel Charles collected 21 digs on defense. Vrhel hit an impressive .438 on her nine kills. Freshman Amy Matula aided the Lehigh offense with 20 assists and Charles registered four serving aces. Poole and Vrhel led the defense up front with a combined nine block-assists, five and four respectively.
"She (Silverstein) really played outstanding," said Bertucci. "She has a specific role on our team and she fulfilled that tonight in relief of an injured Jade Van Streepen. She came in with the right attitude and she was prepared for the match."
Tonight was Lehigh’s final tune-up before the Mountain Hawks start Patriot League play when they welcome Colgate into Leeman-Turner Arena on Friday night for a match slated to start at 7 p.m.