Preview: Volleyball hosts Patriot League Tournament this weekend
Eagles aim for 5th consecutive league title and 15th overall
The AU women’s volleyball team will hope to ride the momentum from their 16-game winning streak to a 15th Patriot League title this weekend. For the fifth year in a row, the Eagles will host the Patriot League Tournament after securing the top seed in the league. The Eagles posted a 15-1 record in the league, and have been undefeated since a Sept. 26 four-set loss on the road to Navy.
AU will host fourth-seeded Lehigh at 2 p.m. Nov. 18 in the first semifinal while second-seeded Navy will play third-seeded Army in the second semifinal at 5 p.m. The Eagles defeated Navy and Colgate a season ago to claim their fourth consecutive Patriot League title in Bender Arena.
The Eagles have been led all season by junior outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala, whose 4.70 kills per set average ranks eighth in the nation. Kazala also ranks sixth in total kills (493) and fifth in points (550). For the second consecutive year, Kazala was named the Patriot League Player of the Year and was a first-team all league selection. An Eagle has been named the Patriot League Player of Year each of the last five years.
Sophomore Kristan Largay joined Kazala on the Patriot League first team and also earned an individual award as the Patriot League Libero of the Year. Largay ranked third in the league in digs per set with 4.37 and recorded double digit digs in all but four of the Eagles games this season.
Freshman outside hitter Helena Elbaek, sophomore middle blocker Vela McBride and junior setter Kennedy Etheridge were named to the Patriot League second team. After splitting time with freshman Olivia Wassner early in the season, Etheridge emerged as the Eagles’ primary setter and averaged 8.63 assists per sets. McBride, the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year, led the league and ranks in the top 15 nationally in hitting percentage (0.422). Elbaek recorded double-digit kills in eight games.
AU defeated Lehigh in both of their regular season matches this season, winning 3-0 on Oct. 6 in Bender Arena and 3-1 on the road against the Mountain Hawks on Nov. 4. Kazala averaged 17.5 kills in the two victories over Lehigh while Elbaek also tallied double-digit kills in both matches. Lehigh is led by senior outside hitter Ana Spangenberg, a first-team all league selection, who averaged 13 kills in the two meetings with the Eagles.
AU defeated Army in both of its meetings and split with Navy, winning their second matchup in a five-set marathon at Bender Arena on Oct. 20. Navy is led by junior Patricia Mattingly, who was recognized as the Patriot League Setter of the Year, and senior outside hitter Tara Dotzauer, a first-team all league selection. Army is anchored by the strong defensive core of middle blockers Carolyn Bockrath and Vanessa Wesley, both first-team all league selections.