Posted: 09/11/2012 | Last updated: September 11, 2012 at 09:44 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team took Rutgers to a fifth and deciding set on Tuesday night but was unable to come up with the win, losing 3-2 to the Scarlet Knights. The Mountain Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the match and were within two points of knocking off the Scarlet Knights in the fourth set, but Rutgers stormed back to tie the match at two sets apiece and eventually defeated Lehigh in the deciding fifth set.
"I’m really excited about the way the girls played," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "I think they competed from start to finish. In our first game we had an unbelievable set, hitting over .600 but as the match wore on, it got tougher and tougher for us to maintain that level, but I thought the girls did a great job throughout. We just didn’t have the snap on the ball at the end."
In the first set, Lehigh jumped out to a 14-10 lead and used a 10-4 run from there to open up the game to a 24-14 advantage and sustained a small Rutgers comeback to take set one by a final score of 25-18 on a kill by sophomore Jade Van Streepen. Lehigh ended the set with a hitting percentage of .667 and seemed to be in control of the match.
Set two started with a 5-2 run by the Mountain Hawks but Rutgers battled back to tie the set at 10. Lehigh was again able to gain a lead but Rutgers played from behind and tied the set at 17 before going on a 6-1 run to take a 23-18 lead and ended the set at 25-23 to tie the match at one game apiece.
The Mountain Hawks recorded another impressive hitting percentage in set three, ending at .333 and taking the set 25-23 for a 2-1 advantage. This time Lehigh would play from behind, battling back from a 15-12 deficit to tie the match at 15 before outscoring the Scarlet Knights 10-8 to take the set.
The fourth set was a wild back-and-forth affair as Lehigh started with a 5-2 lead, but Rutgers would surge back to tie the set at 10 points. The Mountain Hawks were then able to gain a 21-17 advantage but Rutgers was able to use a 7-2 run to take a 24-23 lead with a chance to send the match into a deciding set. After a Rutgers attack error to knot the match at 24, the Scarlet Knights were able to rattle off two points to take the set, 26-24, and force the fifth and deciding set.
"We knew it was going to be a tough match for us so we approached it in a way that we wanted to get out there and compete and put some pressure on them," said Bertucci. "We were playing right with them all the way and had a very good chance at winning this match."
After Lehigh was able to take a 5-4 lead to start the fifth set, Rutgers tallied five straight points to take a 9-5 lead. The Scarlet Knights would be able to score the final six points needed, as Lehigh would commit five errors, to take the set 15-11, and the match, three games to two.
"We let up for a couple of plays in that fifth set and they got a couple of points but we got it back to within two," said Bertucci. "We just didn’t have enough to put it away."
Junior Amanda Clark led the way for Lehigh, collecting 19 kills on the night, followed by senior Taylor Poole with 13, and Van Streepen with 12. Junior Rachel Charles collected a team-high 23 digs, while junior Dana Raber led the Mountain Hawks with 38 assists, followed by freshman Amy Matula with 24.
"I think if we can build on this match going into the weekend, we’re going to come out of it ready for Patriot League play," said Bertucci.
Lehigh will have two days off before it travels to Fort Worth, Texas to face Prairie View A&M on Friday night in the opening game of the TCU Molten Invitational Tournament at 5:30 p.m.