Posted: 09/09/2011 | Last updated: September 9, 2011 at 04:56 PM
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In the first of three matches at the Long Island Invitational, the Lehigh volleyball team won handily against Temple on Friday afternoon in four sets (25-15, 25-19, 22-25, 25-14). The Mountain Hawks were led by sophomore Amanda Clark, junior Taylor Poole and sophomore Courtney McCutchan whom combined for 35 of the team’s 53 kills. Lehigh also had its highest attack percentage on the year at .244.
"I am really excited about the win," said head coach Bob Bertucci. "Temple is a good team and I’m really happy about how our team came out and performed."
The Mountain Hawks improve to 4-2 on the year and from the moment they stepped on the court, took complete control of the match. After losing the first point, Lehigh never trailed again for the rest of the first set. Lehigh had a total of 14 kills to just five attack errors while Temple was held to just seven kills and made six attack errors.
The second set was more of the same as again Lehigh dropped the first point and but after regaining the lead, would not relinquish it. The Mountain Hawks had 15 kills to four attack errors for a .297 attack percentage. Lehigh led 19-13 before Temple made a small run to try to get back in the set as the seven point lead was cut to four, but the Owls couldn’t get over the hump as the Mountain Hawks won the last three points on a McCutchan kill and a pair of Temple attack errors to win the set.
After committing a combined nine attack errors in the first two sets, Lehigh committed eight in the third set for an attack percentage of .079. The Mountain Hawks found themselves down 11-19, but still had a chance to pull out the set. Lehigh went on an 8-2 run to cut Temple’s lead to two at 21-19. Five of those eight points were thanks to three attack error and two service errors by Temple. Then after a pair of kills from sophomore Paige Kruse, the Mountain Hawks were down just one point 22-23. But two Lehigh attack errors later, Temple had forced a fourth set.
"We really went after them in those first two sets," said Bertucci. "We took a little break in the third set and they got going and that put a little pressure on us but we came out in the fourth and played really well."
In that fourth set, Lehigh went back to what it did in the first two sets. After trailing 0-1, the Mountain Hawks won the next two points and never looked back as it cruised in the fourth set 25-14 to win the match. Lehigh had 13 kills on just three errors for a .385 attack percentage.
Clark led the team with 13 kills while Poole and McCutchan added 12 and 10, respectively. Sophomore Rachel Charles and senior Angelika Kopacz both had 16 digs while senior Jessica Kudirka was a dig away from a double-double as she posted 41 assists with nine digs.
Temple (3-4) was led by Gabriella Matautia who had a match-high 13 kills and Collin Wallace who had a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs.
After playing two straight tense five-set matches which Lehigh split, Bertucci was happy his team was able to put the match away when it should have.
"Temple is a good team and it was a competitive match, but the girls did what they needed to do to put it away in the fourth," said Bertucci. "They went out and executed and our blocking by Clark [who led the team with six blocks] and Kruse [five blocks] really shut down Temple’s left side and that was really big."
There was also some added excitement in the match for Bertucci as he faced his former team. Bertucci manned the sidelines for 16 seasons at Temple where he collected 315 victories making him the program’s career leader in wins. Bertucci isn’t the only member of the coaching staff with a connection to Temple as Lehigh assistant coach Yun Yi Zhang served as a student assistant coach for Temple last season and played for the Owls for three years under Bertucci.
"Our girls assumed that I really wanted to win this match so I think they took that load on themselves and really played hard; I think they did that for me and I really appreciated the effort they put out there," said Bertucci. "It was a little awkward and odd. I’ve never had to play my former team before and now here we are, right away at the start of our season playing Temple. I know all of the players and the coaches, it was definitely different but once the match got going it was just another match for us that we wanted to win."
Lehigh will take the court again on Saturday at 10 a.m. against host LIU and then at 3 p.m. against BIG EAST opponent Syracuse. LIVE stats will be available for both matches: sidearmstats.com/liubrooklyn/wvball/