The American University volleyball team (20-10) defeated the Army West Point Black Knights (14-12) 3-0 in a Patriot League semi-final match on Nov. 17. The match was played at Cotterell Court at Colgate University.
The Eagles earned this trip after sweeping the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds at home on Nov. 14 in a quarterfinal match. Army entered coming off a bye in the first round of the playoffs, their most recent match being a 3-2 loss at Navy.
American got off to a hot start in the first set, going up to a 6-1 lead before Army called their first timeout. Graduate student middle blocker Carlie Fikse contributed the first point of the match, a spike into Army’s court for a kill. A 9-5 run in favor of the Eagles followed after Army’s first timeout, forcing their second.
American had Army’s every move read and did not let up in their attack. Graduate student outside hitter Zeynep Uzen tallied her first five kills of the match in this set, with Fikse putting up three kills and senior defensive specialist Rachael Bennett putting up two aces. The result of the first set was a 25-11 Eagles victory.
The second set started the same way as the first, a huge run from American to force an Army timeout. In this set that was an 8-2 run, featuring kills from Uzen, freshman outside hitter Holly Hopkins, and freshman opposite hitter Carly Sciborski. Army put up more of a fight in the second set than the first, but still found no answer to the Eagles’ offensive flurry. The final score of this set was 25-17 in American’s favor.
The third and final set of this match followed suit with the first two, another timeout called after an 8-2 start for the Eagles. Junior middle blocker Lilou Stegeman found some big plays in this final set, leaping for a huge block to shut down a short run from the Black Knights. Hopkins sealed the match off and punched American’s ticket to the championship match, hitting a serve off an Army defender into the gathered crowd for the Eagles’ set and match victory, 25-16.
Uzen led the team in kills with 14, followed by Hopkins’ 10. Stegeman had four blocks on the day, leading the team in that category. Junior setter Esma Sipahi led the team in assists with 32, and junior libero Bridget Javitch led the team in digs with 22.
“We can only celebrate this win for a little while,” head coach Ahen Kim said after the game. “We have two great teams on the other side of the bracket that we have to get ready for, but this team has done amazing things and that deserves to be celebrated.”
Kim said that the team’s preparation for this game, especially coming off of a 3-2 loss at home against Army in the penultimate game of the regular season, showed in a big way.
Hopkins said the key to this win for the team was making the environment feel like the environment they had at home. “Taking over the gym and making it ours is what helped us win like this today,” she said.
“I’ve been waiting for a moment like this all year,” Uzen said after the win. “I don’t care who’s in front of us on Sunday, I’m not leaving this team without a ring.”
The Eagles stayed in Hamilton to play the Colgate Raiders for the Patriot League championship on Nov. 19.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.