Lehigh battles despite losses to Virginia Tech and Elon
08/28/2021 | 13 o’clock
BLACKSBURG, Virginia – It was quite a struggle to open the 2021 season as the Lehigh volleyball team fought back 2-0 against Virginia Tech to take a fifth set only to fall at 15-11. The Hokies held the 3-2 win (14-25, 19-25, 26-24, 25-19, 11-15). The Mountain Hawks (0-2) dropped the first two sets of the day’s second match against Elon, coming back to win the third before taking the fourth and the match (18-25, 20-25, 25-17 , 22-25).
Lehigh’s first day of the 2021 season ended 0-2, going into the final day of the Virginia Tech Invitational against Toledo on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we played like a young team overall,” said head coach Alexa Keckler. “We did a lot of things really well and there were times when we killed ourselves. Both teams we faced today have some great talent and obviously we had a few chances to win against Virginia Tech and we just got it don’t quit.
“And then, against Elon, we were really flat in the first set,” said Keckler. “You can’t do that. They have some experienced hitters on their team and they are much more relaxed than we were at the beginning.”
After a 2-0 deficit in the first two sets against hosts Virginia Tech, an almost lifeless team found life again in the third and rallied around fifth-grader Hannah Wright to achieve an emotional two-point victory over the Hokies. The set win was Lehigh’s first against the team, which dates back to the first meeting in 1982.
With a 25:19 win in the third set, the Hokies held on to the 15:11 win in the fifth set to take away the season opener and the surprise message from the Mountain Hawks.
Freshman Megan Schulte was mightily impressive, counting 15 kills to lead all the attackers, and also added five digs. Sophomore Lylah Washington followed her with 10 kills and 16 digs for her first double-double of the season. Freshman setter Makena Smith was dominant, registering 43 assists and 10 digs to go four blocks. Freshman libero Kyleigh Brown finished with 16 digs.
“Today we had great contributions from the first-semester class,” said Keckler. “Makena (Smith) did a solid job for the first time and especially against an ACC team. Megan (Schulte) really had a great first match. She had to adjust against Elon but she was still contributing on a defensive basis. ” .
“Kyleigh Brown’s performance was brilliant, she did really well today. She’s already showing some amazing leadership skills on the pitch. She’s a fighter and I love that about her. And I think Emily Stewart had to get used to the speed of the game today . ” but with a little more work she will be someone we will rely on a little more in future games. “
The Mountain Hawks hit 0.126 for the match and got better and better as the game progressed, hitting 0.241 in set four and 0.250 in set five.
A win over ACC opponent Virginia Tech would have given Lehigh its first win over a Power 5 opponent since 2018, when the team beat the Big 10’s Rutgers in the Crosstown Invitational at Grace Hall.
Lehigh came out “flat” against Elon after an emotional five-set affair with the Hokies in the first game of the day. After being swept away by Toledo that morning, the Phoenix won the first two sets of the game as the Mountain Hawks again had their backs to the wall.
Lehigh opened the fourth set with an 11-4 run and pushed the lead to 19-9 after an ace serving from Ally Thaw. A double block from Makena Smith and Emily Stewart ended the threat as the Mountain Hawks captured the 25-17 set win. The Mountain Hawks fought in the fifth set but never prevailed as Elon took the win and the match.
Three Mountain Hawks finished with double-digit kills, led by fifth grader Sabrina Lancaster at 12. Hannah Wright had 11, while Megan Schulte added 10 with nine digs and five total blocks. Makena Smith had 37 assists, five blocks, and four digs.
The tournament ends tomorrow at 1 p.m. when Lehigh takes on Toledo in Blacksburg. The Mountain Hawks want to avoid starting the season 3-0 for the third year in a row.
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