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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Volleyball wins one, loses two in Big Apple Tournament

Sophomore outside hitter Abby Nieporte spikes a ball for a point during the Leopards’ victory over Manhattan College last weekend. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

Volleyball (2-4 overall) traveled to Columbia University to compete at the Big Apple Tournament this past weekend, where they lost to Columbia (22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19, 7-15) and St. Francis Brooklyn in five sets (19-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-22, 14-16) but swept Manhattan College in three sets (25- 12, 25-21, 25-13).

The team started the tournament last Friday night with a loss to Columbia. Defensive blocks from freshman middle blocker Hannah Ehrich-Pollock, junior setter Alyssa Vitale and sophomore middle blocker Gracie Gibson (7, 3, and 3 respectively) however, sent the battle with the Lions into five sets.

In the opening set, the Maroon and White dug themselves out of a hole after starting with a 17-10 deficit, tying the set at 20. However, they could not pull out the match and the Lions managed to secure the set win. 

The Leopards’ run in the middle of set two allowed them to tie the match at 1-1 as freshman libero Emily Gouldrup closed it out with an ace.

Neither team dominated the next set with runs, and ultimately the Lions’ back-to-back points at 23-20 were enough to capture the set three win.

Thanks to defensive blocks from senior outsider hitters Grace Steurer and Ehrich-Pollock, the Leopards responded in the fourth and took the set, pushing the tournament opener into the fifth set. 

Ultimately, the bonus set favored Columbia as they had an early 5-1 lead. The Leopards came back into the game momentarily before the hosts book-ended the set with two more runs. The Lions’ hit average was .526 in the final set to come out victorious in a 3-2 win over Lafayette.

Sophomore outside hitter Abby Nieporte dominated with 16 kills, with Ehrich-Pollock and Gibson adding 10 and nine, respectively. Vitale had 44 assists and eight digs.

Following Friday night’s defeat, the Leopards faced two more New York City-based schools on the next day: St. Francis Brooklyn and Manhattan College.

The match with St. Francis Brooklyn was back-and-forth, with Lafayette winning the second and fourth sets but losing the first, third and final sets.

Sophomore outside hitter Nina Kernan explained the Leopards’ difficulties in set three.

“One of our struggles is closing our games. [Third sets] are teaching us to be consistent with our energy and communication,” Kernan said.

The fourth set was an exciting one, as Lafayette maintained its 5-0 point lead and did not let up until mid-match. St. Francis Brooklyn tied it up 17-17 before a kill from freshman outside hitter Carol Ulichney and a block by Gibson and Nieporte cinched the final two points needed to end match four 25-22 and push the match into tie-breaker fifth set. 

“During the fifth set, the team focused on taking competitive energy from the last set and putting it into the final mini set,” Kernan said. 

The Terriers and the Leopards battled each point, with Lafayette falling behind early before battling back for a 9-8 lead. A Leopards’ kill at 13-13 nudged Lafayette ahead but was not enough to stop the Terriers who scored three-straight points to finish the match.

Nieporte had a career-best 20 kills and five digs, while sophomore outside hitter Phoebe Glass and Gibson added 11 kills each. Ulichney had her first career double-double, 12 kills and 10 digs.

According to Kernan, freshmen like Ulichney are handling a competitive environment well. 

“[This Big Apple Tournament] is very new for the freshman, given the high-pressure environment of a five-set game, it can be frantic at times,” Kernan said. “The team is focusing on building up their confidence and assuring them that mistakes are okay.”

The Leopards faced the Manhattan College Jaspers next. Lafayette led 12-10 in the first set, rattling off 10 unanswered points with Nieporte at the service line. 

“Our team needed to hit high hands, focus on the ball in play, not make errors on our side of the net, and as the speed of the game gets faster, making it easier for setters to play their game,” Kernan said.

The Leopards struggled a bit during the middle set, but ultimately finished with a 4-0 run to jump out to a 2-0 match lead.

“As we shifted from our base, we started to miss the digs we usually get which causes a breakdown of energy and communication,” Kernan said.

The final set of the Big Apple Tournament started strong for Lafayette with a run of four early on. The momentum carried the Leopards to the end of the match, with the final score reading 3-0 in favor of Lafayette.

Nieporte remained as an offensive leader for the Leopards with 10 kills and nine service aces in the sweep over Manhattan. Sophomore setter Anna Penman had 31 assists and middle blocker Natasha Zorbas contributed to Lafayette’s success as well seven blocks. 

Lafayette volleyball will open Patriot League play against rival Lehigh tonight at 6 p.m. at Kirby Sports Center.

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About the Contributor
Colleen McNamara
Colleen McNamara, Staff Sports Writer/Copy Editor

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