The Mountain Hawks celebrate after a win during the SHU Hampton Inn Invitational Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, and Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, at Grace Hall. The team holds a six-match winning streak going into the rival matchup against Lafayette on Saturday at Grace Hall. (Courtesy Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh volleyball aims to stay perfect in Patriot League play against Lafayette

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The volleyball rivalry between Lehigh and Lafayette can be traced back 43 years. Since 1974, the two teams have played 86 games against each other.

Lehigh has won 56 of them.

The Mountain Hawks look to add another victory against longtime Patriot League opponent Lafayette this Saturday on the team’s home court.

The Mountain Hawks’ six-game winning streak and 11-5 record is highlighted by their perfect Patriot League play record this season. The team’s faceoff against Lafayette will be its third match during league play.

The Mountain Hawks shut out Colgate and Holy Cross in Lehigh’s Patriot League opening weekend at home with a pair of 3-0 wins.

Senior defensive specialist Hannah Chalk said the team’s early successes can be attributed to the competition the Mountain Hawks experienced throughout preseason tournaments.

“The other Patriot League teams are looking at our record and who we have played and want to beat us,” Chalk said. “Every team is going to show up firing because we are the team to beat right now.”

Sophomore right side hitter Ana Spangenberg was named Patriot League Volleyball Player of the Week after Lehigh’s first two Patriot League wins, in which Spangenberg totaled 34 kills.

She said she’s excited for the rivalry game and attributes the Mountain Hawks’ success so far to its team dynamic.

“We are doing so well because we are really clicking well as a team,” Spangenberg said. “Our team has built a lot of trust over the course of last spring and preseason that is feeding into our on-court chemistry and success.”

Although the team is going into the rivalry match with the momentum it’s gained from its win streak, the Mountain Hawks are focusing on making sure they treat the game the same as they would any other. Through working to improve week-by-week and building upon its previous performances, the team believes it will come out successful against Lafayette and looks to carry that momentum for the remainder of the season.

“The Lafayette match is always an emotional game because of the big rivalry,” sophomore outside hitter Julia Pressly said. “It is a mental game, but we must keep our skill and play level up. We try to avoid focusing on our opponent and rather focus on ourselves. This way our mental state doesn’t get in the way of our play.”

Chalk said to prepare for the set of games against Lafayette, the team is focusing on continuously playing hard and competing. The ability to maintain the same drive and focus is key when competing in a series that can last for five games.

Junior libero Emily Develle said with the Patriot League becoming more competitive each year, it’s important to take every game seriously.

“We are preparing our side of the court to be effective and successful against (Lafayette) like we do for all other teams,” Develle said. “I think it’ll be a fun match to play as we’ll usually get a good crowd for it.”

The team is on pace to shatter its 13 wins from last season and put itself back in the conversation for the Patriot League Championship.

Spangenberg is confident in the team’s potential, especially because the Mountain Hawks have already earned 11 wins compared to the 13 total wins during their previous season.

“This is the year for us,” Spangenberg said. “We will get a Patriot League Championship.”

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