Volleyball triumphs over Lehigh before falling to Bucknell

Volleyball+celebrates+their+3-1+win+against+rival+Lehigh+last+weekend.+%28Photo+by+Rick+Smith+for+GoLeopards%29

Volleyball celebrates their 3-1 win against rival Lehigh last weekend. (Photo by Rick Smith for GoLeopards)

The volleyball team (4-4 overall, 1-1 Patriot League) competed against rivals Lehigh and Bucknell this past weekend, finishing with a 3-1 victory Friday night over the Mountain Hawks (25-18, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19) before falling to the Bison in straight sets (25-20, 25-20, 25-18) on Sunday afternoon.

The Kirby Sports Center crowd was electric on Friday night as the Leopards battled the Mountain Hawks. The first set was a close one – 12-11 in favor of the Leopards – before Lafayette kicked it into gear to score five of the next six points. The Leopards maintained control of the opening frame thanks to freshman outside hitter Carol Ulichney putting down five kills and hitting .444.

“There was a lot of people there which we’re not really used to,” junior middle blocker Gracie Gibson said. “It was really fun to finally start Patriot League and to have a lot of the other teams’ support.”

Freshman middle blocker Hannah Ehrich-Pollock similarly found the crowd’s reaction to be energizing.

“I think in the Lehigh match, we really benefited from the crowd. Lehigh is always a really fun game for us because of our rivalry … I think the anticipation helped all of us really push ourselves on the court,” she wrote in an email. “Having the crowd there was contagious, it’s so much fun on the court when they’re super engaged.”

The Mountain Hawks jumped out to an early second-set lead of 15-13 before the Leopards interrupted with five unanswered points with Ulichney at the service line. Lehigh was able to regain the lead to take the second set with a 4-0 run.

The Mountain Hawks carried that momentum into the third set as they jumped out to a 10-5 lead. Ehrich-Pollock stopped this run with a kill to begin Lafayette’s comeback, in which the Maroon and White took a 15-13 lead. Lehigh managed to add three unanswered before back-to-back Ulichney kills allowed Lafayette to regain the lead. 

The crowd roared as the third set saw nine ties and five lead changes. Ultimately, a 3-0 Lafayette run and a kill from sophomore outside hitter Abby Nieporte allowed the Leopards to win the set.

The open frame of the fourth and final set started with five unanswered from Lafayette. Lehigh never regained stamina after this early lead, and the Leopards clinched their 3-1 victory.

Ehrich-Pollock and Ulichney added 11 kills each, with Ehrich-Pollock hitting .429 and Ulichney recording a double-double with 11 digs. Junior libero Katie Weston tallied 19 digs and four assists while classmate setter Alyssa Vitale added 43 assists and 11 digs for a double-double. Nieporte put down 12 kills with an ace while Gibson added eight kills and a block.

“During [the game against] Lehigh I had an ace,” Gibson said. “I used to not serve, so that was kind of fun. It was something different for me to do.”

Sunday’s play was more of a struggle for the Leopards, although they started off with an early 11-6 first-set lead. Bucknell answered quickly with a 4-0 run.

Lafayette scored three straight to bring the score to 14-10, but the Bison managed to score seven in a row after that.

Bucknell carried that momentum to win the second set as well, putting together a 7-1 run and taking a 10-4 advantage. 

Lafayette managed to lead a few times in the third set, but ultimately Bucknell scored five unanswered to secure their victory.

Ehrich-Pollock finished with nine kills and hit .467 on the afternoon. Gibson added six kills and Nieporte had five putaways and three service aces.

“We have some really good freshmen, and I think one moment that kind of sticks out was against Bucknell, one of our freshmen middles [Ehrich-Pollock], she had a really big kill,” Gibson said. “Even though we ended up losing that game, it kind of got us a little more confidence, and I thought she played really well all weekend.”

Ehrich-Pollock said that the team has a mindset that if they each do their job to the best of their ability, they make each other perform at the highest level.

“I love the battles that every point represents and love the energy and intensity that we bring collectively to fight and win every point,” Ehrich-Pollock wrote. “We have a lot of young players including myself, so we are working hard to learn from every practice and every match. My hope is that the crowd will continue to see us get better every time we go out on the court.”

Something Gibson said the team is working on is stopping other teams from getting runs.

“They had little streaks of getting points and building off of our errors,” Gibson said. “Whenever they gave us opportunities, we could have done a better job capitalizing on that, but I think we did a really good job staying positive.”

Patriot League will continue for the Leopards as they return home tonight to host Army at 7 p.m. before facing Colgate tomorrow at 4 p.m.

“I don’t think our record shows how well we’re doing. We’re learning a lot so far, especially in our preseason games, and I think we have a really high ceiling this year,” Gibson said. 

“We have so much more to accomplish this year, and we are working hard to reach our full potential,” Ehrich-Pollock added.