Volleyball makes history with weekend sweep of Patriot League opponents

Lafayette+volleyball+will+head+into+their+final+regular+season+game+after+victorious+matches+against+both+Lehigh+and+Bucknell+this+weekend.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+GoLeopards.com%29

Lafayette volleyball will head into their final regular season game after victorious matches against both Lehigh and Bucknell this weekend. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards.com)

Charlie Berman, Staff Writer

In a record-setting weekend, Lafayette volleyball (14-9 overall, 11-4 Patriot League) beat two Patriot League opponents on home turf, defeating both rival Lehigh and Bucknell 3-0.

Saturday’s match completed their season sweep of Lehigh and set the school record for most Patriot League wins during the regular season.

The underclassmen stepped up this weekend with impressive stats after having to reshuffle the lineup due to injuries. The Leopards were led by sophomore setter Alyssa Vitale who had 34 assists.

I was excited, but definitely a bit anxious to see how our new lineup would work,” Vitale said. “This gave some of our freshmen the opportunity to step up and embrace the challenge, which they did.

Freshman outside hitter Abby Nieporte had a career-high 15 kills, sophomore middle blocker Gracie Gibson had a season-high seven blocks and freshman outside hitter Phoebe Glass put down a season-best six kills.

The Maroon and White started the day fast by doubling up Lehigh in the first set, closing on a 7-0 run. The set ended with sophomore libero Katie Weston’s first of three aces on the day. Senior middle blocker Madi Wahrmund added back-to-back kills, totaling nine in the match.

Lehigh refused to give up in the next two sets, managing leads of 15-13 and 23-20.

Coming into Saturday with a conference record of 3-11, Lehigh was looking for this key win against their division rivals as they fought for their chance to make the playoffs. However, the Leopards shut down the Brown and White showing the resiliency they have had all season, rallying back and scoring five straight to win the second set.

The final set mirrored the second as the Mountain Hawks held the lead before Lafayette stormed back to sweep Lehigh off College Hill (25-12), (25-23), (25-21). 

This record-breaking performance encapsulated a transformative season for the team who only won a quarter of their games in the previous three seasons. The young players developed their skills last season and now stand as leaders on the team.

It’s honestly crazy to see how this program has turned around in such a short time. Everyone is giving one hundred percent, but I think once we knew we could really hang with other Patriot League teams and beat them, we started holding ourselves to a higher standard,” Vitale said. “I think we started holding each other more accountable and the expectations for our success grew. I’m really happy that our seniors are able to graduate knowing they’ve made such an impact on this program, and they’ve contributed to a winning culture for [volleyball].”

The weekend was not over for the Leopards, hosting Bucknell (7-17 overall, 3-12 Patriot League) less than 24 hours later.

In a close first set, Lafayette had to score the decisive 26th point to win it.

This same close play continued, as both teams traded the lead through the beginning of the second set. After Bucknell went on a 4-0 run to make it 21-18, the Maroon and White scored the next seven straight points to take the set 25-18. 

Lafayette cruised to a 25-11 final set to complete the sweep against the Bucknell (6-0), finishing the weekend strong. 

“We struggled to find momentum and consistency throughout the first set of Bucknell,” Vitale said. “Once we developed a sense of urgency and were able to minimize our errors, we were able to stay aggressive and play how we normally do.”

Vitale had a double-double in the match with 32 assists and 11 digs. Nieporte had 12 kills and two blocks and Wahrmund recorded eight kills and three blocks. Weston added eight digs and two aces, and Glass had 10 kills.

“The team is definitely excited for the Patriot League tournament. It’s something no one on the team has experienced, so I’m looking forward to have this memory and hopefully make some more history,” Vitale said. “Besides the amount of talent on our team, I honestly think the way we practice has been the biggest factor in our success. We’re always playing and competing in practice so everyone is getting a ton of reps and is used to being in that competitive mindset.”

The Leopards currently hold the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament but have a chance to clinch a second seed with a win against Navy in the last regular-season match tomorrow. The standings are also dependent on Army’s match tomorrow against American.

The first serve against Navy will be tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. in the Allan P. Kirby Sports Center.