Posted: 11/08/2012 | Last updated: November 8, 2012 at 11:21 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Fresh off an impressive straight-set sweep of the Navy Midshipmen last Saturday, the Lehigh volleyball team will conclude its regular season with two more crucial Patriot League tilts against Holy Cross and Army that will hold playoff implications. The Mountain Hawks will take on Holy Cross on Friday night before a Saturday showdown with the Black Knights, who have already clinched a Patriot League Tournament berth.
Friday’s match against the Crusaders will complete the season series as the Mountain Hawks knocked off Holy Cross in straight sets in the middle of an eight-game road trip in October. In that match, junior Amanda Clark and senior Taylor Poole combined for 23 kills on the night as both hit over .400 as Poole hit a team-best .474 and Clark hit an equally impressive .409. As a team, Lehigh hit .291 for the match, while on defense, junior libero Rachel Charles dug a game-high 13 balls and freshman Ana Vrhel racked up six total blocks.
Including this year’s encounter, Lehigh leads the all-time series against the Crusaders 31-11. The Mountain Hawks are currently riding a nine-game winning streak over Holy Cross, as they have not dropped a match to the Crusaders since November of 2007. Lehigh has also not dropped a set to Holy Cross since 2009 as the Mountain Hawks have defeated the Crusaders in straight sets five-consecutive matches.
Clark continues to lead the Mountain Hawk attack with 203 kills on the season, averaging 2.90 kills per set. Following her is Poole with 188 kills as the senior is averaging 2.24 kps. Four other Mountain Hawks have reached triple digit kills this season with sophomore southpaw Kaylynn Genemaras (142), sophomore Jade Van Streepen (137), junior Courtney McCutchan (123) and freshman Ana Vrhel (122) all making major contributions to the Lehigh offense. Junior setting specialist Dana Raber has assisted on a team-best 506 kills, while freshman Amy Matula has collected 383 assists of her own this season. On defense, Charles has steadied the Mountain Hawk point protection with 405 digs, while four other Mountain Hawks have reached triple digit digs as well with McCutchan (211), Raber (156), Matula (132) and Van Streepan (112) all aiding the defense. Lehigh’s net protection is led by Poole with 78 total blocks on the year, followed by Vrhel with 58.
Holy Cross will enter Friday’s contest on the heels of a three-game losing streak. The 2-26 Crusaders have dropped nine-consecutive sets leading into Friday’s duel in their last three Patriot League match-ups. Holy Cross’ only Patriot League victory came against Bucknell on September 29 when the Crusaders knocked off the Bison in four sets, 3-1. In their last match, the Raiders of Colgate downed the Crusaders, 3-0, in Hamilton, N.Y. as they hit .349 for the match with six players hitting over .300.
The Crusaders’ offense is led by senior Megan Lynch’s 241 kills and 2.71 kps average, while freshman Emily Oliver has knocked down 156 kills on the season. Sophomore Hannah Grace Stokes and junior Christiana Blakeslee are the teams’ setters, racking up 670 assists between the two as Grace Stokes leads with 451. On defense, senior Elizabeth Watters has collected 355 digs this season, while three other Crusaders have reached triple digit digs as Grace Stokes (194), and sophomores Heather Roberts (155) and Julia Gould (147) have all contributed to the point protection effort. Sophomore Mary-Kate Short and senior Callie Black are the forces at the net, each with 46 total blocks on the year, while Oliver and Grace Stokes have each added 31 blocks of their own.
After Holy Cross on Friday, Lehigh will return to the court on Saturday afternoon for a match-up with the Black Knights of Army. Army’s 9-3 Patriot League record has been good enough to clinch a spot in the Patriot League Tournament set to be held in Hamilton, N.Y. on the campus of Colgate. Army will enter Saturday’s match after playing Lafayette on Friday afternoon. The Black Knights will come into Friday’s game having won two of their last three Patriot League matches including sweeps over Bucknell and Holy Cross sandwiching a five-set loss to Colagte.
Senior Ariana Mankus not only leads the Black Knights, but also the Patriot League with 321 kills on the season and a 3.53 kps average. Army’s other stellar offensive weapon is Morgan Hendrix who’s .311 hitting percentage leads the Patriot League, while the junior has also knocked down 256 kills. Four other Black Knights have reached triple digit kills, while sophomore Mary Vaccaro has assisted on 847 kills this season, as her 9.41 assists per set average ranks her second in the Patriot League. Army’s other setter is Vanessa Edwards as the freshman has collected 204 assists in addition to Vaccaro’s performance. On defense, junior D.J. Phee’s 501 digs lead the team, while Mankus and Vaccaro have added 327 and 247, respectively. Sophomore Molly McDonald and senior Francine Vasquez are the net protectors, as they have each registered 63 total blocks this season, followed by freshman Zoe Kreitenberg’s 49.
Lehigh will be playing to secure the final Patriot League Tournament spot this weekend as the league’s annual playoffs will begin on November 17 with the semifinals and conclude on November 18 with the Patriot League Championship. All Patriot League Tournament games will be played in Hamilton, N.Y. as Colgate has earned the top-seed.