Volleyball takes first place in Patriot League after defeating American and Loyola Maryland

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The Lafayette College volleyball team is now 5-1 in the conference as well as being on a five-match winning streak after dominating American (3-0). (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Luke Ritchie

The Lafayette College volleyball team is on a five-match winning streak after dominating American (3-0) and Loyola Maryland (3-1) last weekend, making them 5-1 in the conference.

The Leopards marked their first win over the Eagles in the five-set era on Friday night in straight sets (25-15, 34-32, 25-6) at Kirby Sports Center. Lafayette’s last win over American was back in 1987, where Leopards also swept the Eagles in two sets.

Senior outside hitter Leanna Deegan led the way with 25 kills and five digs, while senior outside hitter Grace Tulevech came off the bench to go 14-0-25 in hits, kills, and sets.

“Beating American for the first time was a great feeling, especially with it being a sweep,” Deegan said. “American is always a tough team to play, and to win the last set 25-6 was crazy, not only because of the score but because they have definitely done that to us before. That was definitely a good feeling with the revenge factor.” 

Sophomore setter Alyssa Vitale had 49 assists, and sophomore libero Katie Weston tallied 24 digs in the win.   

The Maroon and White jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the opening set and forced an American timeout. Weston ensured the Leopards’ control of the set at the service line, going on a 4-0 run to make it 18-9.

Lafayette jumped out yet again to a 5-0 run in the second frame. American battled back to get within a point at 12-11 and again at 13-12 before Lafayette rallied for another 5-0 run. The Eagles forced a 24-24 tie later in the set, but Lafayette fought off four set-points to eventually win the set 34-32. 

Lafayette remained a dominant force in the third set, closing out the match scoring 11 straight points.

The Leopards hit with an accuracy of .364 as a unit, holding American to just .140 and 28 total kills.

Freshman outside hitter Abby Nieporte had nine kills and hit .400, while sophomore middle blocker Gracie Gibson put down seven, hitting .500 and adding three blocks.

“We have a big group of hard-working girls, so when we’re all together working in practice, it leads to success,” Nieporte said.

The Leopard’s success on Friday night marked the first time they had won four straight conference matches since their 2006 season.

Lafayette notched their fifth straight victory on Saturday after knocking off Loyola in four sets (25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 25-10).

Deegan led the way once again with a match-high 24 kills along with six digs while Tulevech put down 11, hitting .400 and adding four blocks.

The Patriot League recently awarded Deegan with her second straight Player of the Week honor and third of the season after leading the Leopards in the successful week.

The Leopards held a big lead in the second set (19-11) before a Loyola timeout sparked a 5-0 run for the Greyhounds to decrease the lead to just three points. Lafayette ended the set with back-to-back kills by Deegan and senior middle blocker Madi Wahrmund to go up by two.

Wahrmund went 9-0-15 in the afternoon, hitting .600 with four blocks.

The tide turned in the third set as the Greyhounds extended the match. Lafayette answered with senior defensive specialist Abby Devlin came off the bench to deliver back-to-back aces, putting the Leopards on a 4-0 run to make it 21-19.

“Our overall performance in the third set was not what we wanted,” freshman libero Carson Grace Toomer said. “We came in in the huddle after the third and talked about how that wasn’t how we wanted to perform, and we all came to the conclusion that we were better than what we showed in the third set. Then we came out in the fourth set and proved it to ourselves.”

Loyola jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, but Lafayette quickly regained control going on a 6-0 run with Deegan at the service line to make it 10-6. Another 7-0 run made it 17-7 with Devlin at the service line.

Gibson added eight kills and seven blocks while Vitale had three kills to go along with her 49 assists. Weston delivered a career-high 33 digs on the afternoon.

The Leopards will be home once again on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. against Army, hoping to continue their winning streak.