Lehigh sophomore right side hitter Ana Spangenberg follows through with her kill in a match against Loyola University on Oct. 7 at Grace Hall. The Mountain Hawks beat Loyola 3-1. (Maddy Burt/B&W Staff)

Volleyball seeks redemption against reigning Patriot League champion, American

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The Lehigh volleyball team will honor its four seniors Saturday at home against four-time defending Patriot League champion, American University.

Lehigh (16-10, 7-5 Patriot) sits at fourth place in the Patriot League with American (20-7, 11-1 Patriot) occupying the top seed. The Eagles are also on a 12-game winning streak going into the team’s match Friday against Lehigh’s longtime rival Lafayette College.

Earlier in the season on Oct. 6, Lehigh suffered a 3-0 defeat on the road against American. This loss mirrors the Mountain Hawks’ first American match last season that also ended in a 3-0 loss. The team went on to beat the Eagles later on in the 2016-17 season with a 3-0 shutout.

Junior Tori Hemsath said despite the outcome of the previous game against American, the team thinks it has what it takes to defeat the Eagles on Saturday, thanks in part to adjustments made over the course of the season. She said earlier in the season against American, the Mountain Hawks had some miscommunication that they’ve since improved.

Sophomore Ana Spangenberg, who ranks third in the Patriot League with 326 kills, echoed Hemsath and said the Eagles had a home court advantage, which the Mountain Hawks will have this weekend.

“Obviously, our home court gives us a huge advantage,” freshman Hannah Wright said. “We just have to serve them out of the gym and keep them out of their system.”

Spangenberg said communication and on-court chemistry will be crucial for Lehigh’s success.

Saturday is the team’s Senior Night, where the team will commemorate the achievements and successes of its noteworthy upperclassmen, a group that coach Bob Bertucci said has selflessly overcome the toughest journey of any recruitment class to date.

“These four have stayed with the team through four years,” Bertucci said. “Through many ups and downs, they’ve always been here and have had a lot to do with molding how the team functions now and what we’re all about.”

The Mountain Hawks will rely on seniors Kelly Bennett, Bonaire Berry, Hannah Chalk and Stephanie Stieber for leadership and guidance as the four close out their Lehigh athletic careers.

Bennett said the game’s significance stretches beyond the court for the seniors.

“The three other seniors and I, our bond has grown a lot stronger over the years, and we look forward to reflecting on our time spent together on the volleyball team,” Bennett said.

The team plans to rally around the four seniors and hopes to deliver a proper sendoff as the season comes to a close.

“We want them to end on a good note in Grace Hall,” Spangenberg said. “That motivation has helped us perform so well on Senior Night for three years straight.”

With a win against American, the Mountain Hawks would strengthen their postseason momentum and ranking as they prepare for the Patriot League Championships. Though the team missed the playoffs last year with a 13-17 record and 8-8 Patriot League record, it holds a one-game lead over Colgate University and Bucknell University in league standings.

Bertucci said the team could make a serious run at a championship.

“In comparison to last year, we’re more mature as a team,” Bertucci said. “We just have to realize that when we’re playing to the level we’re capable of, we can beat anybody.”

The team will face off against American at 5 p.m. Saturday in Grace Hall.

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