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Patriot League women’s volleyball preview

AU hosts in search of its 14th title in 16 years in the Patriot League

Patriot League women’s volleyball preview

First team Patriot League selection Kennedy Etheridge plays in a game in 2017. 

After claiming the Patriot League regular season title, the AU women’s volleyball team will host the Patriot League volleyball tournament semifinals and finals for the third straight season beginning Saturday, Nov. 19.

The Eagles finished the regular season with a 15-1 record in the league after dropping just four sets to conference opponents. AU hosts fourth-seeded Navy at 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the first semifinal while second seeded Colgate faces the third seed Army at 4:00 p.m. The winners of the semifinals will play Nov. 20 at 1:00 p.m in Bender Arena for the Patriot League title.

AU has hosted the Patriot League tournament 14 of its 16 years as a member of the Patriot League. The team has captured the tournament title in each of the 14 years in which it has won the regular season title in the league. Last season, the Eagles swept Colgate and Army to win the Patriot League title.

Sophomore outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala leads the Eagles and is second in the league in kills per set with 4.29. Kazala, the Patriot League Player of the Year and a first-team all league selection, led AU in kills in 26 of its regular season matches. Sophomore setter Kennedy Etheridge and junior middle blocker Loren McKenzie were also named to Patriot League First Team. Etheridge led the league with 9.85 assists per set while McKenzie averaged a league-best 1.13 blocks per set.

Freshman Vela McBride was named to the second team and was honored as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. McBride was second on the Eagles in blocks per set, third on the team in kills per set and her attacking percentage of 0.354 is second-best in the Patriot League. Head coach Barry Goldberg was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year and the seventh time in his career.

AU defeated Navy in both of their regular season matchups, winning 3-1 on Oct. 4 in Bender Arena and 3-0 on Oct. 25 in Annapolis, Maryland. Kazala recorded a season-best 28 kills in the first matchup and Etheridge averaged 41.5 assists between the two meetings. McBride recorded a season-high with 14 kills in the first matchup and freshman outside hitter Shannon Webb tallied 18 kills in the meeting in Maryland.

Navy finished the regular season with a record of 20-8 and 10-6 in the league and is led by Patriot League setter of the Year Patricia Mattingly and Libero of the Year Sydney Shearn. Mattingly placed on the Patriot League First Team while Shearn earned second team honors.

Two of the three league losses suffered by second seeded Colgate came against AU. The Raiders are led by First Team all-league selection outside hitter Kathleen Harris who finished the regular season fourth in the league in kills per set. Middle blocker Jaelah Hutchinson and right side hitter Katie Stebbins were named to the Patriot League second team.

The third seeded Army Black Knights finished the season with three players inside the league’s top four in hitting percentage, Carolyn Bockrath (0.378), Sydney Morriss (0.349) and Vanessa Wesley (0.323). Bockrath was named to the Patriot League first team while Wesley, outside hitter Allie Strong and right side hitter Olivia Fairfield were named to the Patriot League second team.

Army and Colgate split their two matchups in the regular season, with the Black Knights winning 3-1 on Sept. 24 in West Point, New York while the Raiders swept Army 3-0 on Oct. 21 in Hamilton, New York.

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