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Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024
The Eagle

Eagles sweep weekend on a PL run

The Eagles cruelly smashed any grand schemes Bucknell or Colgate had of ending the AU Volleyball team's perfect run toward its fourth straight Patriot League title after another AU-dominant weekend in Bender Arena.

On Friday night, the Eagles put forth a balanced attack, led by senior setter Courtney Mulford, and swept Bucknell in a little over an hour's time. Eighteen hours later, a similar scene was played out as the Eagles swept an undersized Colgate squad.

The wins put the Eagles at 11-0 in the PL as they head into the final two weeks of conference play.

Home fans were treated to some high-impact volleyball in both matches. Against Bucknell, junior Cuttrina Biddulph led all players with 14 kills. Often striking from the middle of the floor, Biddulph was unstoppable when Mulford got her the ball in striking position.

Biddulph said much of the Eagles' energized attack has come from watching tapes of the Chinese volleyball team, which never stops moving, even when the ball is dead.

"Right now we've been focused on running in between plays so we can start running during plays," she said. "It's helped us build momentum."

When Bucknell focused its energies on stopping Biddulph, the Eagles' outside hitting foursome of freshman Chelsa Brooks, senior Natacha Cornaz, senior Erin Algaier and sophomore Liz Maloney easily carried the load.

Cornaz, last week's PL player of the week, recorded eight kills on the night and seemed to rally the team with her presence on the court. The senior has struggled throughout the season with injuries but has lifted her play as the championship portion of the season draws near.

"I was just playing really bad before, but I'm getting there, practicing better, and the team seems to be working together, too," Cornaz said.

The Eagles struggled a bit with service errors and mishandled passes, but they had too much size up front for Bucknell to keep up with.

After taking Games 1 and 2 with 30-21 scores, the third game was only a formality. The Eagles overwhelmed Bucknell, 30-15, to conclude the sweep.

Against Colgate, Biddulph and Cornaz were up to the same tricks as the night before. The duo combined for 13 kills and eight block assists. Again, Mulford was there to set up the potent attack - notching 39 assists for the match.

The crowd was again treated to hard-hitting and high-flying volleyball from all sides of the Eagles' court. Brooks and Maloney had five and six kills respectively, while Biddulph and Cornaz led with 20 and 11 kills. Senior Sabrina Vasconcelos led the defense with 12 digs.

The sweep was completed with game wins of 30-19, 30-21 and 30-15. Afterward, Biddulph and Cornaz said they are excited about the PL tournament and want to continue their winning streak.

"We really seem to be coming together as a team here at the end of the season," Biddulph said. "I see improvements out of all my teammates."

Cornaz agreed. "The other years we seemed to be going down, everyone was getting tired and worn down," she said. "This year we're just getting better."

While pleased with the wins, Goldberg said his team has to stop giving up points on missed serves or bad passes if it wants to make any kind of run beyond this PL season.

"Our real key is that we have to handle the free balls a lot better," said Goldberg. "We've got to be better at passing a free ball to give our hitters to kill quick. Those are some of the things that have to be done if we're going to make the move."

The Eagles host Lehigh next Friday and Lafayette on Saturday, with hopes of wrapping up their fourth straight undefeated PL regular season.

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