Senior middle blocker Ana Vrhel gets ready to take a set from her teammate at a volleyball practice on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. Vrhel has put up record number all four years she has been on the team. (Erik Thomas/B&W Photo)

Lehigh volleyball completes another successful season, but falls short in PL Tournament

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The Mountain Hawks volleyball team fell to Army in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament to end yet another strong year for the team led by Bob Bertucci, the 2015 Patriot League Coach of the Year.

Under Bertucci, the Mountain Hawks are 73-43 through four seasons, including a 43-17 in Patriot League play. The team has made an appearance in the Patriot League Tournament in each of his four years, including a trip to the championship game in 2014 against American University.

In 2015, the Mountain Hawks had an up and down season, going on three, four and five game win streaks at times, but then following those streaks up with a few losses in a row. But when it came to Patriot League play, the team was successful, recording a 11-5 record that put it in third place behind Army and American.

“We had a really good year,” senior setter Stephanie Slater said. “We use the non-conference games to test us, we play better competition. I think the reason coach makes our schedule that way is to get us to playing at our highest level going into conference play. I’d say that strategy has worked pretty well over my time here.”

The team’s success was back and forth early on in the season losing the James Madison University Classic, winning the Crosstown Invitational, winning the Art Carmichael Invite and then losing the Panther Invitational.

“After the tournaments we played in we really focused on conference play,” senior middle blocker Ana Vrhel said. “We knew that was what really mattered. We had to put everything we had into those games in order to get into the Patriot League Tournament. Once we were in the tournament we had to really lock in because just one loss and it was over. We as a team wanted to send my class, the seniors out with a Patriot League title.”

For a team that was full of players that had grown accustom to success over the last few years, this year’s team was no exception. It finished the year above .500 and made the Patriot League tournament as well.

“For being such a young team it was easy to become use to winning. no one on this team has experienced what it feels like to miss the tournament or even a losing season,” Slater said. “Coach has done a great job recruiting and instilling that next man up mentality that has become such a cliche term lately. But that’s really the way we played. No one person was bigger than this team and no one game meant anymore than the next. What ever was next up on the schedule was the most important thing to this team whether it was a game a practice or even a lift.”

That micro-focus mentality has proven itself to be at least a portion of the reason why this team has been so successful over the years. Even though the team remains so young, the team has brought in new players every year and have had sophomores and even freshmen making major contributions to the team.

“We had a lot of young players have major roles in this teams success this year and those young players will continue to be good here for the time that they are here,” senior setter Claire Bradshaw said. “Recruiting young talented players will allow this team to be very competitive and good for a long time.”

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