Eagles defeat Midshipmen, 3-2

23rd win in a row over Navy

Eagles defeat Midshipmen, 3-2
TRIPLE THREAT - Rubena Sukaj, Katarina Cinkova and Christina Nash (from left to right) all put up their arms to block a shot in the Eagles' recent match against the U.S. Naval Academy. AU won 3-2 on Saturday.

The AU women's volleyball team ran its winning streak to seven this weekend, beating the U.S. Naval Academy Friday and the New Jersey Institute of Technology Saturday in two tightly contested matches.

Friday's match against Navy was AU's 23rd straight win against their Patriot League rival, a streak that dates back to 1989. The Eagles defeated Navy 3-2 (20-25, 28-26, 25-14, 22-25, 15-11).

Navy set the tone early by jumping out to an early 6-0 lead in the first set. Both teams traded points as the Eagles tried to claw back into the match. AU came within one, trailing 15-14, but the Midshipmen would never relinquish the lead, cruising to a first set win.

AU recovered from a poor first set by building a 9-4 lead, but Navy would fight back with an 8-4 run, cutting into the Eagles' early momentum. The Eagles responded with a 7-3 run that featured an emphatic kill by junior middle blocker Ann Recht, giving AU a commanding 20-15 lead with a win in sight.

Navy rallied again, knotting the score at 23 and forcing the score to 26 each just moments later. With AU on the ropes, sophomore rear setter Cassandra Ricketts wrapped up an important set win with a crucial block and an ace.

Navy opened the third set with a 6-4 lead, but Ricketts delivered her fourth kill of the match, then another ace to tie the game at six. The Eagles never looked back, upping their lead to 20-11 and cruising to a set win. AU hit .455 in the third set and held the Mids to a .143 hitting percentage.

With a chance to close out the match, AU could not fight off a resilient Navy team in the fourth set. The Mids hit .486 for the set, the Eagles hit .333, but it was AU's defense that couldn't stop the Navy's attack.

The fifth and final set was tied 6-6 before senior outside hitter Rubena Sukaj connected with her 20th kill of the day, giving AU a lead they would not surrender. Senior setter Christina Nash would finish the day with 58 assists and freshman outside hitter Rebecca Heath finished with 19 kills.

"This was a tough battle," AU head coach Barry Goldberg said in an interview with AUeagles.com. "Navy worked hard, but we rebounded well and got some big kills down the stretch from Rebecca [Heath] and Rubena [Sukaj]. Our defense made a big difference at the end, holding them to just six kills in the final set."

AU pulled out another five set victory against NJIT in Bender Arena Saturday, 3-2 (25-11, 22-25, 25-14, 23-25, 15-11).

"Though we struggled through moments, we remained in reasonable control throughout the match. Our defense had another terrific day and continues to be a big part of the success we've had," Goldberg told AUeagles.com. "Our blocking was reasonably strong, but our back line needs to keep improving. We found a way through another tough opponent and we're looking forward to the upcoming week."

Heath and Sukaj led the Eagles with double-doubles Saturday, Heath with 19 kills and 15 digs, Sukaj with 19 kills and 13 digs. Nash had 51 assists, while junior defensive setter Cynnamon Burns led the team with 16 digs.

AU will return to play at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when they host the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in Bender Arena.

You can reach this staff writer at sports@theeagleonline.com.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle