Junior middle back Lauren Bright sets up a serve during the game against American University on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, in Grace Hall. The Lehigh volleyball team lost 3-2 to the American University Eagles. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

Volleyball newcomers feel warm welcome

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After spending 13 seasons as Muhlenberg College’s head volleyball coach, Alexa Keckler brought her experience across the Lehigh Valley to serve as the head coach of Lehigh Volleyball.

In her first season, Keckler has seen consistent success out of her 17-5 team. Outside hitters Ava Hudson and Victoria Jepson, who are both freshmen, have therefore begun their careers surrounded by such success.

But for the newcomers, it isn’t all about the wins — all three feel as though they are already a part of the Lehigh family.

One of the main reasons Hudson chose Lehigh was because of how welcomed she felt on her unofficial and official visits.

“Everyone is so interconnected and there is such a family vibe,” Hudson said. “Having coaches who genuinely care about how you’re doing — not just physically but emotionally and academically — really helps because you know you have a big group of people who genuinely care about your well-being.”

Jepson felt the warm welcome as well, especially because of the bond between classes.

“There is no divide between the upper and underclassmen — we are all treated the same way by the captains and coaches,” Jepson said.

The team members’ off-court connections help them achieve their on-court potential. Lehigh currently has 1074 team kills on the season and 1026 assists, compared to its opponents’ 1032 and 994, respectively.

Keckler believes the adjustment to Lehigh was made easier because of her players. Since she was not able to watch them throughout the recruiting process, she has taken the time to get to know how each team members plays.

“I think learning the league and figuring out how to coach each player to their potential is always going to be a continuous challenge,” Keckler said.

While the results have largely been in Lehigh’s favor this season, the team has had its downfalls as well, dropping three straight throughout October to American, Colgate and Navy. In its match against American at home on Oct. 9, Lehigh won the first two sets against the defending Patriot League champions before dropping three straight sets in a stunning loss. On Oct. 19 at Navy, the team was swept 3-0 by the Midshipmen.

The following day the Mountain Hawks proved their resiliency by bouncing back in a 3-2 win over Loyola.

Since the beginning of the season, Keckler said the team has improved immensely in controlling the ball. She said the team’s morale and ability to push one another has made all the difference in its play.

“Court culture,” or how one acts and communicates on and off the court, has also proved vital to the team’s success.

Hudon said this is her first time on a team that emphasizes court culture and other off-the-court aspects of the game. This has helped her become more confident.

The Mountain Hawks have six league matches to go until the Patriot League Tournament begins. They host Holy Cross (4-18) on Oct. 26, who they beat 3-2 on the road at the end of September.

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