Volleyball wins 13th Patriot League title
With wins over the Army and Colgate this weekend the Eagles finish the Patriot League competition with a perfect record.
For the 13th time in program history, the AU volleyball team can call themselves Patriot League champions. The Eagles advanced to the Patriot League final after a decisive three-set victory, 25-19, 25-19, 25-20, over Colgate. In the final, AU bested No. 2 seed Army Black Knights with a challenging three-set victory; 26-24, 25-17, 26-24.
The Eagles finish Patriot League competition with a perfect 18-0 record, a first in Patriot League history. This is the sixth time in AU history that the volleyball team was gone undefeated against the Patriot League.
Outside hitters freshman Aleksandra Kazala and seniors Kristyna Lindovska and Allison Cappellino were named to the Patriot League All-Tournament team, and Cappellino also took home the Tournament MVP honors.
“As a coach, even though it's my 15th time going to the NCAA Tournament, it’s still an honor to be a part of something like this,” head coach Barry Goldberg said. “Now we’re going to go to the NCAA [Tournament], and a lot of these freshmen are going to have such an eye opening experience.”
The Eagles road to the NCAA Tournament began in the semifinals against No. 4 seed Colgate University. The teams battled in three close sets, with the Raiders taking early leads in every match, but the Eagles pulled out the win.
AU was led by a mix of senior experience and underclassman energy. Kazala set a personal best and led all players with 15 kills, while Cappellino finished with 13. The Eagles finished the game with a .257 hitting percentage and 50 total digs.
“Credit to Colgate because they served us really tough, they kept hitting hard serves,” Goldberg said after the semifinal game. “Hoakalei [Dawson] and Allison Cappellino and Aleksandra [Kazala] were just trying to fight them off. And so it took us a little bit out of it at times but we made some big kills at the end.”
Army defeated No. 3 Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the semifinals 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 for a chance to face the Eagles.
“Army played really well yesterday, and we knew that if we did not play well today that Army was going to be able to beat us. They really had it going,” Goldberg said. “I thought they we’re really impressive, and so our defense picked us up a little bit, and we served really well today.”
The Patriot League final was closely contested thoughtout. The Black Knights secured a brief lead in every set but the Eagles rallied back each time for a 3-0 sweep.
AU relied on consistent attacking to push past Army by repeatedly sending the ball to the backcourt past the Black Knight defense. Once Army moved back to cover the backcourt, the Eagles seized the opportunity to deliver blistering spikes for the kill.
Cappellino led the Eagles with 17 kills, four digs and two serving aces. Sophomore libero and Patriot League Libero of the Year Hoakalei Dawson and Kristyna Lindovska both earned double digit digs, with 13 and 12 respectively. Patriot League Player of the Year and Setter of the Year senior Monika Smidova earned 29 assists to put her at 4,000 assists in her career.
The Eagles earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament with their conference title. AU’s opponent will be announced at the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Selection Show next Sunday, Nov. 29, at 9 p.m on ESPN.