Lehigh volleyball struggles in Bama Bash Tournament

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Junior setter Stephanie Stieber practices between sets against Providence College on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016, at Grace Hall. The five-set match ended in a 3-2 Providence victory. (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

The Lehigh volleyball team traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and saw tough competition winning one of nine sets this past weekend at the Hampton Inn Bama Bash hosted by the University of Alabama.

The team dropped 3-0 to Southern Mississippi, 3-1 to Northwestern State and 3-0 to Alabama, all of which were out of conference matchups.

“It benefits the team a lot playing different opposition because it puts them in difficult and different situations,” assistant coach Gavin Watt said, “especially if the teams they are playing are of a higher level.”

The team began the tournament Friday with a match against Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles gained the first match point and from there, continued to have the advantage over Lehigh. Though the Mountain Hawks were able to close the gap to three points, they ultimately dropped the first set 25-18. Similarly in the second set, while Lehigh was able to stay within one and two points continuously, it was eventually defeated 25-20.

The third set was more competitive, with Lehigh and Southern Miss taking turns tying and leading the set. But then they were tied at 25 points, Southern Miss snatched the last two points and shut out the Mountain Hawks completely.

In their second game of the afternoon, the Mountain Hawks again suffered a loss, this time to Northwestern State. They had hope after leading for the entirety of the first set and won it 25-21, but they could not keep up their play.

The team finished the tournament Saturday, losing to Alabama. The first set was competitive until the Mountain Hawks came within one point at 18-17. From there the Crimson Tide took off, closing out Lehigh for seven straight points, finishing 25-17 in that set and taking the next two as well to clinch the win.

Throughout the weekend, key players for Lehigh were Jessica Donaldson with 17 kills, Megan Polak and Bonaire Berry with 61 and 26 assists respectively, and Emily Develle with 35 digs.

Freshman Julia Pressly credits junior Kelly Bennett and sophomore Develle for their quality play.

“Bennett was definitely a key player in the middle. She put the ball away when needed and did her job,” Pressly said. “Develle also kept the team motivated and didn’t let a ball drop.”

Despite the tough weekend, Watt said he is proud of his team.

“We didn’t start great at the tournament and maybe didn’t get the results we wanted, however they showed that they can battle and be in these tough matches against good teams,” Watt said. “That tells me we are moving in the right direction.”

The Mountain Hawks face Villanova on Tuesday in a game that freshman Jessica Donaldson said the team is looking forward to playing.

“They are known to be a pretty talented team, and I think we have a challenge on our hands,” Donaldson said. “How we compete should be a good indicator of our success this season.”

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