EMMA KNIGHT / THE EAGLE
In its quest to win a third straight Patriot League Championship, the AU volleyball team opened conference play 1-1 after falling to Army, 3-2, and sweeping Holy Cross, 3-0, in Bender Arena.
“Army played us hard and got better and better as each set went on,” AU head coach Barry Goldberg said. “We were up and down, while they steadily kept getting better in the match and that made the difference by the end of it.”
The Eagles (8-6, 1-1 PL) got off to a quick start against the 2011 PL runners-up Sept. 21, winning the first set 25-15 after scoring seven straight points to close out the game.
“We really didn’t play that well in the first game hitting the ball, but [we] ended up beating them on some great blocking,” Goldberg said.
The second set was more of the same, as the Eagles recorded their best hitting percentage of the match (.333), off 14 kills and just two errors. Junior outside hitter Juliana Crum and sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Sara Rishell each earned four kills in the 25-16 win.
Army (10-5, 2-0 PL) came out strong with its backs against the wall, causing 15 lead changes in the first 15 points of the third set. The Black Knights then used a 9-2 run to gain a 17-9 edge. AU quickly responded with a 5-1 spurt of its own, but it was to no avail as Army stayed alive by winning the set, 25-21.
The Eagles had a strong showing in the fourth set with a hitting percentage of .278, but it wasn’t enough as Army recorded four more kills (17) and won, 25-23. Army called a timeout facing a 23-20 deficit, and scored five straight points to win the set.
AU got off to a sluggish start in the do-or-die fifth game, losing five of the first seven points. The Eagles never came within three points of the Black Knights, who closed on a 5-0 run to win the set, 15-7.
Hoping to bounce back, the Eagles came out strong the following day against Holy Cross, hitting .379 and winning the first game 25-12. They didn’t relent in the following two sets, winning 25-17 and 25-13 to cruise to an easy victory.
“We knew we had to come out firing for every single game,” junior opposite hitter/middle blocker Morgan Hendrix said. Hendrix picked up nine kills and a game-high four blocks.
AU dominated Holy Cross (0-16, 0-2 PL) in nearly every category, recording twice as many blocks as the Crusaders.
The Eagles will look to carry their success against Holy Cross into the weekend, when they face two more conference opponents. AU will take on Lafayette Sept. 28, and then square off against Lehigh Sept. 29.