For the first time in 11 straight matches, the Lafayette volleyball team found its rhythm playing against the seasoned Lehigh team. Having won the past 11 of its matchups against the Leopards, it would seem the Lehigh team would have both the mental and home court advantage because of its prior successes.
However, the Lehigh volleyball team fell short against Lafayette College on Wednesday, losing 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-19) in Lehigh’s Leeman-Turner Arena in Grace Hall. Despite the Mountain Hawks’ aggressiveness and court awareness, the Leopards’ strategic game helped them seal the win.
The Leopards took control in the first set, setting the momentum for the rest of the match. A combination of strong middle hitting and strategically placed serves kept the Lehigh team on its toes.
While the Lehigh team came out strong at the net by setting up blocks, it was unable to stuff Lafayette’s strong offense. Lafayette’s senior outside hitter Brianne Giangoobbe led the team in number of successful kills. By switching up the variety of her placement, Giangoobbe was successful in her hitting.
A series of pushes in front of the 10-foot line and back row attacks were the main tools in Lafayette’s arsenal. While Lehigh’s outside hitters, including senior outside hitter Leah Turner, came out swinging, the Lafayette blockers stuffed a majority of its attempts. Despite Lehigh’s strong effort to challenge the Lafayette offensive, the first set ended at 25-22.
The second match was similar to the first with one exception – Lehigh had a new found momentum due to a setter change. Freshman setter Megan Polak aided the team’s strategic play by mixing up where the ball was in play. Instead of only setting outside, Polak set up back-row attacks and right side hits that caught the Lafayette team off-guard.
Standout hitter, senior middle blocker Ana Vhrel, performed well when set up with a quick set and slide play on the right side. This combination of plays paired with constant outside hits aided the Mountain Hawks’ effort to rival Lafayette. The second set ended 25-17 in favor of the Leopards once again.
Lehigh seemed to gain momentum in the beginning of the third set with kills made by junior middle blocker Katie Jennison. Long points rallied on reaching six exchanges across the net at a time. The constant back and forth increased the energy between teams and the crowds supported their teams even more.
In the end, Lafayette’s combination of smart setting and aggressive hitting sealed their victory for the first time since 2009.
The Mountain Hawks will face Loyola University (Maryland) and Navy this Friday and Saturday at Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.