AU stomps Hoyas, 3-1
Everyone on the AU Volleyball team will tell you they are the team to beat in the Patriot League. Judging by the fire of opponents who visit Bender Arena every weekend, AU's rivals seem to agree.
Friday's match against Navy was no exception. The Eagles (11-8, 7-0 PL) broke the confidence of the eager Midshipmen (6-11 overall, 2-5 PL) with a close game one win before running away with the match 3-0 (30-26, 30-15, 30-19).
Junior Erin Allgaier was brilliant for AU, taking some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of senior Karla Kucerkova to collect career-highs of 15 kills and 10 digs. She also had a strong .481 hitting percentage.
The sluggish Eagles fell behind early in game one on Friday as Navy patiently ran its offense. The Mids led by their greatest margin, 24-21, late in the game, but poor hitting allowed AU to close the gap. AU's junior Natacha Cornaz, who missed the last two matches with an injury, came off the bench to hit a kill that tied the game 25-25. The Eagles never looked back as they thwarted Navy's chances at a game one upset, 30-26.
Navy only hit .080 to AU's .301, but some of its attacks caught the Eagles off guard. They didn't always make routine digs and were instead forced to make awkward saves, some of which couldn't be salvaged for returns. Kucerkova's knuckles provided two saves in front of the net on one play in game one. That type of shaky defense didn't sit well with AU Head Coach Barry Goldberg.
"In the first few plays there were a couple balls that landed near us that we didn't even make a good effort for," he said. "We need a little more intensity."
The Eagles also won a non-conference match Saturday at cross-town rival. Georgetown (6-15, 1-5 Big East) 3-1 (30-28, 30-14, 28-30, 30-20). Kucerkova had 21 kills, 10 digs and five blocks as the Eagles shut down the Hoyas, who had only a .049 hitting percentage. The Eagles also had a great night in front of the net, amassing 23 blocks for the match.
Finding quality digs and finding them often can separate great teams from good teams, which was clear during the Michigan State match Sept. 20. AU's hitters could hang with those of the Spartans, but the same couldn't always be said for the Eagles' defense.
Just as the Eagles recognize they are the team to beat, they also recognize that their defense has to get sharper if they want to keep that label.
"We're obviously the more powerful [hitting] team, but we play defense too," Goldberg said. "These [PL] teams hope to beat us by out-defending us, but when we get out there and play defense, we're pretty good."
Kucerkova echoed Goldberg's emphasis on stronger stops on the defensive end. She said the Eagles have to improve their defense if they want to be a great team.
"The offense is the part which looks good," Kucerkova said. "The defense is the part which we need to play to win"