AU volleyball loses to Navy in Patriot League championship
Eagles faced their 2017 championship opponent for the second time in Bender
In a neck-and-neck matchup against their conference rival, Navy, AU volleyball came up short in the Patriot League Championship game on Nov. 18, losing out on a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
AU began the explosive match in Bender with the bleachers full with both Navy and Eagle fans.
The two teams went neck and neck in the first set with Navy holding a lead and rebuttals from AU (20-13, 13-3 PL) with powerful attacks by senior outside hitter Aleskandra Kazala and a service ace by junior middle blocker Jeanne Westney. They lost the first set 25-22 after Navy made a short comeback close to the end of the set.
The second set began with Navy taking the lead and the Eagles bouncing back. AU made crucial plays to secure their lead, including two kills and a block by senior middle blocker Loren McKenzie towards the end, making AU win the set 25-19.
The Eagles fought to keep a lead in the third, with successful defensive double blocks by junior middle blockers Vela McBride and Jeanne Westney, along with kills by sophomore outside hitter Helena Elbaek. Navy fought back strongly, however, with a service ace towards the end of the set that helped them to win 25-21.
The game’s turning point began in the fourth set when AU won with a score of 25-21. This advanced the game into a fifth and final set with both teams tied. The Eagles came out on the court to play hard, but ultimately could not come back from a six point deficit, losing the game to the Midshipmen 3-2.
The game was an uphill battle that had a tearful ending. Seniors Aleksandra Kazala, Loren McKenzie, and Kennedy Etheridge concluded their careers today, but not without reinforcement from head coach Barry Goldberg, who commended them post-game for their hard efforts.
“That whole team that [the seniors] came in with all experienced a loss,” Goldberg said. “And when you experience a loss it’s really a pretty healthy thing many times, because it makes you want to get better. The team was already hungry because they had experienced that loss and they were getting better and it taught them how to get better over time.”