ANA SANTOS / THE EAGLE
Hoping to continue its dominance atop the Patriot League, the AU volleyball team enters this weekend’s Patriot League Tournament as the No. 2 seed after reeling off seven straight conference wins to finish the regular season.
“We’ve got the momentum running into the tournament,” AU head coach Barry Goldberg said. “These last seven matches are a good sign for us going in, and we’re feeling pretty good about our game.”
The Eagles (20-9, 11-3 PL) will take on third-seeded Army (20-8, 11-3 PL) Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. in Hamilton, N.Y. after splitting the season series with the Black Knights. AU swept Army in its last matchup Oct. 20 while playing without setter Kylann Scheidt, who ranks third in the Patriot League in assists per set.
The Eagles’ improved hitting attack has been key to their strong play of late, a main reason behind winning 18 of their last 20 sets. The Eagles, who rank first in the Patriot League in hitting percentage, have seen strong performances recently from right side hitter Kristyna Lindovska and outside hitter/middle blocker Sara Rishell.
“Kristyna started out really strong in the middle of the season,” Rishell said. “She has gotten back into her rhythm and she’s ripping the ball. She’s playing smart, but she still knows she has that really hard hit both cross and down the line.”
Lindovska, who was named the Molten Patriot League Player of the Week Nov. 12, led the Eagles in kills in both their Nov. 9 3-1 victory over Colgate and Nov. 10 sweep of Bucknell. She posted hitting percentages no lower than .500 in each match, and totaled a team-best eight block assists over the weekend.
Rishell, who ranks third in kills and tenth in blocks in Patriot League play, has been named to the honorable mention list three out of the last four weeks in conference awards. She recorded eight kills in each victory last weekend while posting five digs in the Colgate win.
Although the Eagles have historically been an excellent hitting team, their outstanding blocking is something they aren’t typically known for. AU ranks atop the conference standings and is 22nd in the nation this season in blocks per set.
“We’re hitting the ball pretty well, and our block has been good all year long,” Goldberg said. “All of the top teams in the nation are all in the top 20 in hitting percentage and blocking. We’re climbing the charts here. It’s a good sign for us.”
If the Eagles pass Army in the Patriot League Semifinals, they will take on either top-seeded Colgate or fourth-slotted Lehigh Nov. 18.
The Eagles split the season series with both teams.