Women’s volleyball completes five-set comeback against Navy
Eagles win tenth straight, claims first place in Patriot League
At halftime Friday night in Bender Arena, the AU volleyball team lacked fluidity and consistency in their offensive approach, trailing Navy by two sets to none in a game with major implications in the Patriot League. Navy had beaten the Eagles in their previous meeting on Sept. 26 and a loss would make it unlikely that the team would once again be regular season conference champions.
However, the team roared back after halftime, winning the final three sets and claiming a 23-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-9 victory over the Mids (17-5, 7-2 PL).
“We said at halftime that we were switching so many players and they [Navy] had a set seven,” Goldberg said. “It made a difference to have a set team ourselves and not switch around the whole time.”
After rotating two setters, junior Kennedy Etheridge and freshman Olivia Wassner, in the first two sets, Etheridge played every point of the final three sets. Goldberg also inserted freshman defensive specialist Megan Crush in the third set, swapping out sophomore outside hitter Aleksandra Sochacka.
In addition to the rotation changes, middle blockers sophomore Vela McBride and Cheyenne Orsi keyed the Eagles’ comeback with their defensive blocking. McBride recorded eight total blocks and Orsi contributed 10 to limit Navy’s attack to below 0.150 hitting percentages in each of the final two sets.
The Eagles (18-7, 9-1 PL) had nine attacking errors through two sets, attacking with a hitting percentage of 0.230. This was over 0.100 percentage points below their average on their nine-game winning streak.
“We’ve played a lot of teams in our league and they’ve out-blocked us regularly,” Goldberg said. “Today, the block certainly got us back into the game, it made their hitters do some things they weren’t able to do as well.”
Despite coming out of the locker room with energy and spirit in the third set, AU struggled to gain control of the third set and trailed for the majority of the third set. The Eagles fought back from five points down to tie the game on a kill by freshman outside hitter Helena Elbaek. Serving with the set tied at 18, Crush delivered two service aces on a four-point service run to give AU a lead they would not relinquish. The Eagles finished the third set with 13 kills and no attacking errors while attacking with a hitting percentage of 0.464.
AU led for the entire fourth set and were paced by junior outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala, who contributed four of her 17 kills in the set and added a solo block. In the fifth and deciding set, AU never trailed and Kazala closed out the game with a service ace to complete AU’s first rally from a two-set deficit since its season opener against Georgetown a season ago.
“[It was a] good comeback win for us, and I think we won convincingly in those last three sets,” Goldberg said. “It was good solid volleyball from us tonight.”
Kazala, who entered the game seventh in the nation with 4.80 kills per set, led the Eagles offensively with 17 kills and 14 digs. McBride added 14 kills and sophomore outside hitter Shannon Webb tallied 11 kills. Four Eagles finished the game with double-digit digs and Etheridge recorded 41 assists.
With the victory, AU improved to 3-3 in five-set matches on the season and claimed sole possession of first place in the Patriot League. Entering the match, the Eagles and Mids were tied for first place, with each team having one league loss. The victory gives AU a one game lead over the Mids and puts the Eagles in position to host the Patriot League Tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
The Eagles return to action Friday Oct. 27 against third place Army West Point at 7 p.m. in Bender Arena before hosting Holy Cross on at 2 p.m. on Oct. 28