Eagles complete weekend sweep with a win over Holy Cross
Building off momentum from a Friday night win against Army, the AU women’s volleyball team breezed quickly through a three-set win against the College of Holy Cross on Saturday afternoon with scores of 25-9, 25-9 and 25-14.
A strong defensive showing by the Eagles (12-5, 4-0 PL) led the charge to victory and extended their undefeated start to Patriot League play, where they sit atop the conference standings. AU recorded nine team blocks in a match that lasted just over an hour, and the Crusaders (3-12, 0-3 PL) struggled to find their rhythm against the Eagles. Holy Cross never managed to string together a scoring run of more than four points at any point throughout the game.
AU head coach Barry Goldberg said that defense was the team’s main focus of the match which allowed the offense to relax and be aggressive when necessary. As a result, the Eagles’ defense limited Holy Cross’ Mandy Sifferlen, the Patriot League leader in kills, to only six and allowed AU’s offense to end with a .386 kill percentage.
“We’re always working defensively to be a big blocking team, which we’re much better at this year,” Goldberg said. “Every time you can stop your opponents, you don’t have to worry about making a kill, you can hit the ball over and be patient because you’ve got a good enough defense to stop.”
Defense has served as an important facet of AU’s success recently, with the Eagles now leading the Patriot League in both blocks and opponent hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Erin Swartz, the conference’s leader in individual blocks, added that while she knows the team’s unbeaten start in league play puts them in a good position in the Patriot League, the team is striving to perfect its strengths.
“We’re at a really good place right now I believe, 4-0 in the Patriot League, so hopefully we can use that momentum next week, but we still have a lot to work on this coming week,” Swartz said.
The Eagles dispatched Holy Cross easily in the first two sets, going on five and six point scoring runs to quickly extend their lead. After starting the second set at 2-3, AU then went on a 15-1 run to put Holy Cross beyond striking distance. Reigning Patriot League player of the week, senior Allison Cappellino, led the AU attack with team-highs of seven kills and 11 digs, despite resting the third set along with many regular rotation players.
Goldberg said that throughout the game he stressed the importance of limiting errors that could hurt the team, and he highlighted that the Eagles made seven aces and only four service errors, compared to the Crusaders who had only two aces in the last set and eight service errors.
“What I told them before the third set was the same thing I told them before the first set: just execute the game, don’t hit a lot of balls out of bounds. Kind of like first-grade stuff, basics,” Goldberg said. “If it’s a bad opportunity, be patient, don’t hit the ball off the court. If it’s a good opportunity, go rip the thing, go for it! And that’s good execution of the sport.”
Coupled with a Friday night win against Army, the Eagles earned their second weekend sweep. The team will defend its place atop the Patriot League standings with a series of games on the road, starting at Navy on Tuesday evening and games at Colgate and Lehigh over the weekend.
“There’s those three games and then we go to Loyola next week, so there’s four more coming up on the road,” Goldberg said. “That’ll a big part, if we can get through these next matches here, and really keep getting better at our skills, we’ll be in a good position here to potentially to be at the top of the board at the end of the season, to then host the (Patriot League) championship.”