BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team is coming off a pair of big wins and will be looking to ride the momentum into its final two regular season matches as the Mountain Hawks travel to take on American Friday at 7 p.m. and Navy the following day at 4 p.m. With a Patriot League Tournament berth already clinched, Lehigh’s final two games will determine its seeding.
The Mountain Hawks (18-8, 9-3 PL) currently sit in third place in the Patriot League standings. If Lehigh goes 2-0, it will assure itself of no worse than the No. 3 seed in the Tournament but depending on what else happens in the league, there is an outside chance Lehigh can win the Patriot League regular season title and earn the No. 1 seed.
A 2-0 weekend would also give Lehigh 20 wins on the season which would be its highest total since the team won 21 games in 2002. It would be the ninth time in school history the team produced a 20-win season. The Mountain Hawks would also have 11 Patriot League wins which would tie the most in school history as the team went 11-3 in 2001.
The Mountain Hawks’ first match of the weekend will be against a first-place American team (19-10, 11-1 PL) that will surely be looking to avenge a historic loss to Lehigh earlier this season.
At Leeman-Turner Arena on October 15th, Lehigh defeated American in straight sets, handing the Eagles its lone loss in league play this season. The victory was Lehigh’s third all-time win against American in 27 matches as the Mountain Hawks also gave the Eagles its first-ever three-set loss in a regular season match since it joined the Patriot League in 2001.
Lehigh had a .292 hitting percentage in the match while American hit just .169. The Mountain Hawks also had 10 service aces on the match, taking the Eagles out of its offense. The serve will be crucial again for Lehigh as it has all season. The Mountain Hawks are currently ranked No. 5 nationally in aces per set (1.85), led by sophomore Rachel Charles who ranks No. 7 (0.52).
Since that loss to Lehigh, American has won six straight matches by a combined score 18-2. The Eagles most recent win came against Army in match that gave American the edge at the top of the league standings. American is led by Sara Rishell who was just named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week. The freshman is second in the league in hitting percentage (.313), fourth in kills per set (3.20) and fourth in blocks per set (0.95). The Eagles are also led by Juliana Crum who ranks fifth with 3.11 kills per set and fourth in aces per set (0.40).
The following day, Lehigh will head to Annapolis, Md. to take on a Navy (6-21 ,1-11 PL) in the regular season finale. The last time these two teams met back on October 14th, the Mountain Hawks cruised to a straight set victory. Lehigh will be looking for its third consecutive season sweep of Navy.
The Midshipmen are led by Carolyn Ewert who ranks seventh in the league with 2.78 kills per set and Holly Berger who ranks fifth with 3.82 digs per set. Navy’s lone league win of the season came back on September 24th in a five-set match over Bucknell. Since then, the Midshipmen have lost 10 matches in a row, only winning one game in that stretch.
Lehigh is coming of a straight-set victory over Bucknell last Friday to clinch one of the top four spots in the Patriot League Tournament. The Mountain Hawks were led by sophomore Paige Kruse’s match-high 10 kills and was one of five Lehigh players with at least six kills. It was Lehigh’s first season sweep of Bucknell since 2002 as the Mountain Hawks defeated the Bison earlier in the season in straight sets.
The following day, Lehigh hosted Colgate as the two teams began the match tied in third place. After five exciting sets on the Mountain Hawks’ Senior Day, Lehigh pulled out the victory to take sole possession of third. The win was also Lehigh’s first over Colgate since 2004. The Mountain Hawks had a season-high 73 kills, led by junior Taylor Poole and sophomore Courtney McCutchan. Poole had a career-high 18 kills – her previous high was 14 in 2010 – and a career-high 33 attacks. McCutchan tied her career high with 18 kills and added 13 digs for her third double-double of the season.
For Poole’s efforts between the two games, she was named the Patriot League Volleyball Player of the Week for the second time this season. After the pair of matches, Poole now has a .408 hitting percentage in League matches which ranks her first in the Patriot League and is 40 percentage points ahead of second place.
While Lehigh enters the weekend a game ahead of Colgate in the standings, if Lehigh were to go 1-1 and Colgate 2-0, the teams would be tied and Colgate would hold the tie breaker as the Raiders would hold a 5-3 edge in frames.
No matter what the results from the weekend are, Lehigh will be playing in a Patriot League semifinal match which will take place on Saturday, November 19th at the location of the highest seed among the four teams. The Championship match is set for the following day.