Nov. 15, 2014
“Holy Cross really hung with us for most of the match,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock, who will be taking the Mids to the postseason for the first time in his four years on The Yard. “We were able to get just enough of an opening in each set to hold on.
“It was a good match for us against a team that is very much on the rise in the Patriot League, and was a really good way to start the weekend.”
Neither Navy (10-5) nor Holy Cross (6-9) could separate itself from the other through the majority of the first set. The lead changed hands four times and the score was tied on 10 occasions. The Crusaders held an 18-16 lead when the Mids went on a 4-0 run to gain a 20-18 advantage. Gaby Smith (So., Virginia Beach, Va.) started the run with a kill, then back-to-back attack errors by the Crusaders gave Navy a 19-18 lead. It became 20-18 on a kill by Alex Cassel (Sr., Sandy, Utah), after which Holy Cross called for a timeout.
The Crusaders sliced the margin in half on a kill by Emily Oliver after the break in action, but a service error allowed Navy to gain both the point and the serve back immediately. Tara Dotzauer (Fr., Raleigh, N.C.) followed with a kill, then a block by Cassel boosted the Mids out to a 23-19 lead. Holy Cross shaved one point off of its deficit on a kill from Mandy Sifferlen, but that was followed Smith and teammate Maggie Phillips (Fr., Leesburg, Va.) recording consecutive kills to give the Mids the opening set.
The second set was tied at 9-9 when Navy went on a 7-2 run to build a 16-11 advantage. After Holy Cross posted a kill to make it a four-point difference, the Mids tallied the ensuing seven points to break the frame open for good and give Navy a 2-0 advantage in sets.
Navy led for the majority of the third and what would prove to be the final set of the match, but the Mids never could feel comfortable about the advantage they held at any point in the set. An early 5-0 run allowed Navy to take an 8-4 lead, but that was as big of a margin the Mids would hold over the Crusaders until taking a five-point cushion at 18-13.
Holy Cross quickly chopped away at the gap between the teams and soon closed to within two points at 20-18. Katie Sylakowski (Jr., Escondido, Calif.) posted a kill to make it a three-point difference, then a Holy Cross attack error made the score 22-18 in favor of the Mids and lead to a timeout by the Crusaders. Phillips responded to the break with a kill, then another attack error by the home team took the visitors to match point with a 24-18 lead. The match wasn’t over just yet as a blocking error by the Mids followed by a Navy attack error made the score 24-20, but a Holy Cross service error closed out the contest.
Navy recorded just eight more kills than Holy Cross did on the night (40-32), but held a .223-.096 cushion in hitting percentage. Aiding the difference in hitting was Holy Cross finishing with 21 attack errors to just 15 for Navy. The Mids held slight statistical advantages through the remainder of the box score, including aces (4-3), digs (55-49) and blocks (5-3).
“It was a good match for our defense and transition game,” said Bock.
It was another night of balance on offense for Navy as six different players recorded at least six kills in the match. Smith’s 11 led the way, with Dotzauer adding nine and the trio of Cassel, Sylakowski and Phillips each posting six kills. Defensively, Alli Graf (So., Annapolis, Md.) led Navy with 14 digs, Star Steele (Jr., Tampa, Fla.) nearly had a double-double with her nine digs and 33 assists, while Sofia Luczak (Aiea, Hawaii) snared a career-high 10 digs.
“Star did a pretty good job of running the offense,” said Bock. “Sofia was really good on defense, especially late in sets. She made some important digs for us at key times.
“And very quietly, Maeve Drummey (Jr., Silver Spring, Md.) had a solid night passing for us. It was fun to watch her. She was money tonight with any ball hit close to her.”
Sifferlen led the Holy Cross offense with 11 kills, with Emily Popp grabbing a match-high 22 digs for the Crusdaers.
American (15-0) clinched the regular season title with a four-set win over Colgate Friday night. That means the Nov. 22 semifinals and the Nov. 23 final will be held at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. Lehigh (13-2), which did not play Friday and will play host to the Eagles Saturday, will be the No. 2 seed in the championship. Navy (10-5) and Army (9-6), which face each other Saturday at 7 p.m. in West Point, are the other two teams that will comprise the field. The Mids enter the regular season finale in third place, while the Black Knights are just one win back in fourth place.
A win by Navy Saturday or a loss by the Mids in either four or five sets means Navy will be the No. 3 seed in the event. A three-set win by the Black Knights by a total score of six or more points means Army will be the No. 3 seed. Those scenarios are due to Navy having defeated Army in three sets when the teams squared off in Annapolis earlier this season.