Posted: 10/03/2012 | Last updated: October 4, 2012 at 02:14 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After knocking off American in Washington, D.C. for the first time, the Lehigh volleyball team will set its sights on rival Lafayette for a Thursday night showdown with the Leopards. The Mountain Hawks will be in search of their third Patriot League victory as they will renew the rivalry for the 77th time inside Kirby Sports Center at 7:30 p.m.
"Only being my second year at Lehigh, it became quite evident my first year that Lehigh vs. Lafayette was a big deal," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "It’s going to be very emotional and that sometimes takes away the ‘X’s and O’s’. It will come down to who is best prepared to play the game."
The Mountain Hawks are coming off a 3-2 win over American Saturday where they defeated the Eagles on the road for the first time in program history. The win leveled Lehigh’s Patriot League record to 2-2 and avenged a five set loss to Navy the night before. The two teams traded set wins through the first four to force a decisive fifth set. With the Mountain Hawks leading 14-13, senior Taylor Poole finished off the Eagles with one of her 12 kills on the night to seal a valuable and emotional Patriot League victory.
"I think we made a major step last Saturday in learning how to beat a team and how to perform under pressure," said Bertucci.
Sophomore Kaylynn Genemaras paced the Mountain Hawks with a game-high 15 kills, while Poole and junior Amanda Clark each added 12. Junior Dana Raber led the team with 27 assists, while freshman Amy Matula added 25 of her own. Poole also led the defense with seven total blocks and received help from junior Rachel Charles, as the libero collected 29 digs.
On the season, Poole and Clark are tied for the team-lead in kills with 104 apiece, while Clark leads with a 2.48 hitting percentage. Raber and Matula have each collected over 200 assists as Raber is averaging a team-best 5.82 per set. Defensively, Charles is averaging 4.58 digs per set, while Poole and freshman Ana Vrhel have combined to block 80 opponent shots.
Last weekend, Charles eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark and moved into sole possession of 12th place all-time in Lehigh volleyball history with 1,015 digs in her career. At her current pace, Charles could finish the season as high as seventh place all-time as the Mountain Hawks have 12 games left in their regular season. Also moving up the record books was Poole, as the senior’s 45 total blocks this season have given her 235 in her career, passing Cara McGrath (1988-91) for 13th place all-time in Lehigh volleyball history.
Lehigh holds a 47-29 all-time advantage over the Leopards and is riding a five-match winning streak over Lafayette into Thursday’s action. Last season, the Mountain Hawks and Leopards went to five sets in the first meeting, with Lehigh prevailing 15-8 in the decisive set for the win. The second match of the season went differently, as the Mountain Hawks swept Lafayette in Easton in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
Lafayette (8-7 overall) enters the match with a 1-3 mark in the Patriot League after falling to Navy and American last weekend. Junior Karissa Ciliento leads the Leopard attack with 153 kills on the season, averaging 2.47 kills per set. Lafayette has three other players with 100 or more kills as sophomore Danielle Towslee (113), senior Kaitlynn Zoller (100) and freshman Brianne Giangiobbe (100) are all in triple digits. Ciliento also leads the serving game for Lafayette with a team-high 21 aces, averaging 0.34 per set.
On defense, junior Michelle Woodworth is averaging a team-best 4.13 digs per set with 227 on the year. Towslee leads the blocking game with 54 total blocks, averaging 0.87 bps, while sophomore Katy Rooney is second with 42, averaging 0.69 bps.
"Lafayette is having a very good volleyball season and have been doing very well this year by challenging a lot of teams," said Bertucci. "I think it’s going to be pretty interesting."
In their last match, the Leopards jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Navy Midshipmen but, just like in Lehigh’s match, allowed the Mids to climb back into the game and force the match to a fifth set. The Mids went on to sink Lafayette, 15-6, in the final set and take a 3-2 Patriot League win and improve to 3-1 in the league, while dropping the Leopards to 1-3.
After Thursday’s action, Lehigh will continue its road trip with a non-league contest against Big East-foe Villanova next Tuesday for a match slated to start at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia.
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