Navy Midshipmen (18-4; 7-2 PL) defeated American University Eagles (18-7; 9-1 PL) earlier in the season at Annapolis, 3-1, on September 26th. It was the first time the Midshipmen had defeated the Eagles since 1989. A victory tonight would have given Navy not only first place, but a season sweep and it looked like it was going to happen for a while.
The first set saw a total of six lead changes and 10 ties in a closely contended set. After an attack error by Freshman OH Maddi Sgattoni gave the Eagles a 13-12 lead, they would go on to win the next four points with a kill from Junior MB Cheyenne Orsi, another attack error by Sgattoni, a kill from Junior OH Aleksandra Kazala and a net violation by the Midshipmen.
Navy would not give up the first set as it came roaring back, eventually tying the score at 23-23, with help from an attack error on Kazala. Another two errors from Orsi and Kazala gave Navy the first set, 25-23 and the lead.
For the second set, neither team could grab more than a single point lead until an attack error by Senior OH Maggie Phillips gave American the edge at 7-5. Tied at 9-9, Navy started to pull away. First another kill by Sgattoni, followed by a kill from Junior MH Katie Patrick put the Midshipmen up 11-9. After Eagles Sophomore Shannon Webb’s kill made it 11-10, Navy went on a mini-run. Attack errors by Kazala, Orsi and Freshman S Olivia Wassner, combined with a kill from Patrick and Navy was up 14-10. They would never trail again in the second and closed it out on a Patrick kill, winning the second set, 25-19 and taking a commanding 2-0 lead.
But the Eagles were not going to give up first place without a fight.
Navy came out strong in the beginning of the third set. After a kill from Senior OPP Tara Dotzauer put the Midshipmen up 6-2, it look like the momentum was with them. But American would go on a 7-3 run and after a kill by Webb, American took a 9-8 lead. Navy put it’s foot on the gas pedal when the media timeout came, they were up 15-12 on yet another kill from Patrick.
The Eagles came out of the break with determination not to be swept and had another mini-run, this one 5-2. A costly error by Navy Junior DS/L Darby Minton tied the score up at 17-17. At 18-18 is where American seized the energy of the crowd and would end the set on a 7-2 run and took it on a kill by Junior S Kennedy Ethridge. Winning the third set, 25-20, American was back in the match, though still down 2-1. They also had zero errors committed the entire set.
As Navy looked somewhat defeated losing the third set, American would not trail a single point in the fourth set and on Navy Junior S Patricia Mattingly’s error, American took the fourth set, 25-21.
Now the match was tied two sets a piece. In volleyball, the fifth set is first team to 15 points win instead of 25. So, every point at the beginning was critical.
From the serve on the very first point, the magnitude of what was on the line became evident to all on the court from both teams. The longest rally of the match (seeing each team tried six team to kill the ball) went for nearly three minutes and ended on a kill from Webb, giving the Eagles the early 1-0 lead. They would shot themselves in the foot with two service errors on their serve back to back tying the score at 2-2.
Last tie of the match occurred at 3-3, when an attack error by Eagles Sophomore MB Vela McBride went out of bounds. From that point on, it was all Eagles as the closest the Midshipmen would get was when Dotzauer’s kill closed the Eagles lead to 9-7.
On their first match point, Kazala would serve a service ace and American won the fifth set, 15-9, to take the match 3-2 and retain possession of first place in the league. It was their ninth match in a row they have won.
After this crushing defeat, Navy looks to regroup quickly as they have a match tomorrow afternoon (4:00 PM) at home against the Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds (9-13; 3-6 PL). American puts it’s nine-game match winning streak on the line when they host the Army Black Knights (14-8; 7-2 PL) next Friday night (7:00 PM)