The Lehigh volleyball team extended its winning streak to six games and remains undefeated in conference play at home this season by defeating Loyola University (Maryland) and Navy over the weekend in the Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.
The two victories only served to widen Lehigh’s lead for second place in the Patriot League. The win over third-place Navy improved the Mountain Hawks’ record to 11-2 in conference play, while Navy slipped to 8-4 record against Patriot League opponents.
Lehigh’s two wins were not the only sources of excitement this weekend, however. Sophomore Mariah Brantley broke Lehigh’s single-season digs record. Her 21 digs in the game against Navy brought her season total to 499, just topping Bonnie Bejsovec’s previous record of 488 digs that she set in 1987.
“I actually didn’t know I was about to break the record, so it was a little bit of a surprise,” Brantley said. “Going into the season, I was competing for the starting spot. So my goal was more to just play at the highest level I could, but it’s such a great honor.”
The entire Lehigh team exhibited strong play over the weekend, starting with a straight-set win over Loyola on Friday night.
Senior captain Jade Van Streepen and junior Stephanie Slater continued their strong seasons, with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Slater also recorded an impressive hitting percentage of .421 for the match. Junior captain Amy Matula, who has earned Patriot League Player of the Week honors twice this season already, nabbed her 14th double-double of the season by posting 11 digs and 38 assists.
In the first set against Loyola, Lehigh pulled out a close 25-23 victory by stepping up in the tight spots. The score was tied at 17 and then 21 late in the set before Lehigh pulled away with a 4-2 run sparked by two kills from Van Streepen and a spike from sophomore Taylor Carroll to win the set.
The second set went more smoothly for the Mountain Hawks — they earned a 25-15 victory with the help of the team’s collective .484 hitting percentage.
Although the third set started out tight with the teams tied at six, Lehigh went on a 6-0 run from there to make the score 12-6. Loyola would never recover, and the Mountain Hawks went on to capture the set 25-19 and the match.
“We definitely attacked well as a team,” Matula said. “We had good hitting percentages in both games, which really helped us this weekend.”
The outstanding offensive play showed against Navy, as junior Anna Vhrel had a remarkable hitting percentage of .600, as well as nine kills and four blocks. Van Streepen, Matula and Slater also continued their strong play. Van Streepen recorded nine kills and 14 digs, Matula finished with seven kills, nine digs and 38 assists, and Slater added four blocks, 14 kills and a .344 hitting percentage.
The first set of the Navy match went back-and-forth, as Lehigh started with a 7-1 lead, only for Navy to win eight of the next 10 points to tie the score at nine. The score tied again at 13 before Lehigh took an 18-14 lead, but Navy came back again to win five of the next six to tie the score once again at 19. Lehigh eventually emerged victorious to take the first set 25-22.
In the second set, it looked like Lehigh might have an easier time, as they led 20-13 and then 23-17. But Navy would not go away quietly and went on a 6-1 run to make the score 24-23 in Lehigh’s favor. The Midshipmen couldn’t quite complete the comeback, however, and junior Leah Turner recorded a kill to give Lehigh the 25-23 second set victory.
There were five tied scores in the third set before Navy pulled away to grab a 24-18 lead. Although the Mountain Hawks fought off three set points, the Midshipmen were able to finish the set off with a 25-21 win.
The fourth set proved to be another close one, with both teams starting off strong to play to an 8-8 tie. Freshman Whitney Krantz made two kills in a 4-0 run to give Lehigh the lead at 12-8. It was a lead that Lehigh would never relinquish, as the Mountain Hawks would eventually win the set 25-22 off a kill from Vhrel and the match 3-1.
“With these two wins under our belt, the team’s confidence is really high,” senior outside hitter Kaylynn Genemaras said. “Our next game is against Colgate, who we lost to last time we played, but having an undefeated Patriot League season at home has us pretty confident going into that game.”
The game against Colgate will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Leeman-Turner Arena. It will be a pivotal game for the Mountain Hawks, who will attempt to avenge one of their two Patriot League losses from earlier in the season. The team will then travel to Bucknell University on Saturday before preparing for an exciting home matchup on Nov. 15 against American University, which is ranked first in the Patriot League and handed Lehigh its only other conference loss of the season.