The second day of the 2018 season for the Navy volleyball team saw the Mids split a pair of matches at the Penn State Classic in University Park, Pa., on Saturday. Navy (2-1) first posted a 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-18) victory over Eastern Kentucky (0-2) before falling in three sets to the sixth-ranked and tournament-host Nittany Lions (25-15, 25-21, 25-11).
Playing Saturday night in the de facto championship match of the Penn State Classic, the Nittany Lions (3-0), who won six NCAA titles from 2007-14 and reached the semifinal round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, quickly scored the first five points of the match on their way to taking an early 7-1 lead. The advantage grew to 12-3 before the Mids cut it down to 16-10. Penn State promptly ran off the next five points to fully separate from Navy.
The second set was much different as it would feature 11 ties and Navy holding a lead as late as 16-15. Penn State used a 3-0 run to regain the advantage, but the Mids eventually would trail again by two points at 23-21 before the Nittany Lions accounted for back-to-back points to take a 2-0 lead.
Penn State put together its best stanza of the match in set three as it hit .423 to Navy’s (-).071 in winning the frame to finish the match.
“We learned a lot about ourselves playing a team with the pedigree and talent of Penn State,” said Navy head coach Paco Labrador, who holds a slim lead over Penn State head coach Russ Rose for the third-best career winning percentage in NCAA history. “The energy and effort, the relentless fight; we showcased quite a bit about what being a Midshipman is all about. Every player stepped up at one point or another. In particular, Katie Patrick (Sr., Aurora, Colo.) played her heart out. There are not too many hitters in the country who will hit .500 against Penn State.”
The match was the fifth in school history for Navy against a nationally ranked team, as well as the first between the Mids and the Nittany Lions in 18 seasons.
Penn State as a team held statistical advantages over Navy in hitting percentage (.307-.059), kills (42-27), aces (6-1), digs (47-41) and blocks (7-5).
Maddi Sgattoni (So., Pittsburgh, Pa.) came close to a double-double with nine kills and nine digs, Patricia Mattingly (Sr., New Albany, Pa.) did notch her second double-double of the weekend with 16 assists and 10 digs and Patrick tallied eight kills, a .500 attack percentage (8-1-14) and three blocks. Her final block of the contest was the 278th of her career, which tied her with Alex Cassel for the school rally scoring era (since 2001) record.
Saturday began with the Mids battling tough for the victory over Eastern Kentucky.
Navy seemed to be in control of the first set as it built an 18-10 lead. Eastern Kentucky responded by scoring each of the next three and 10 of the next 11 points to take a 20-19 advantage. A kill by Amanda Montag (So., Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) off of a set by Paige Miles (Jr., Oklahoma City, Okla.) tied the score at 20-20. That effort started a 4-0 run for Navy that saw it take a 23-20 lead. Mattingly followed Montag’s kills with an ace, then back-to-back kills from Patrick capped the run. The teams exchange the next two points on respective service errors, then a Patrick kill closed the first set.
Whereas Navy led for most of the first set, EKU held the lead for the vast majority of set two. The Colonels held cushions of 7-4, 14-8 and 16-10 until a 7-1 run by the Mids tied the score at 17-17. EKU soon built leads of 21-18, 22-19 and 23-21. A ball-handling error by the Colonels cut the lead in half, then a kill by Sarena Seelbach (Jr., Chapel Hill, N.C.) tied the score. Kelsey Kingsland (Sr., Blackwell, Mo.) posted a kill to give Navy a 24-23 lead, but a service error denied the Mids on their first set point opportunity. Seelbach followed with a kill, then an EKU attack error gave the Mids set number two.
Just as EKU carried momentum from set one into set two, so too did Navy from set two into set three. The Mids rattled off the opening seven points of the third stanza and carried that into building a 21-11 lead. The Colonels chipped away at the deficit and winnowed the margin down to 22-17, but the Mids tallied three of the next four points to earn the victory.
“We had some good ‘gut check’ moments this morning,” said Labrador, “and I couldn’t be prouder of how we responded. We called on our bench to sub into the match when we needed a spark, and they executed perfectly.”
Serving helped spark the Mids in the match as Navy totaled seven service aces against five service errors and allowed EKU to drop in just one ace while committing five service errors. Navy also held advantages in hitting (.154-.099) and digs (41-31).
Individually, Sgattoni posted a double-double of 10 kills and 10 digs, Patrick matched Sgattoni’s kill production and Sydney Shearn (Sr., Louisville, Ky.) snared 19 digs.
Both Patrick and Sgattoni were named to the all-tournament team this weekend.
“We will recover and get back to work on Monday as we prepare to defend our home court at the Kristen Dickmann Invitational,” said Labrador.
Navy will open the home portion of its 2018 campaign this coming weekend when the Mids welcome Alabama, Dartmouth and Villanova to the Wesley A. Brown Field House for the ninth edition of the Kristen Dickmann Invitational. Admission is free for all six matches.
-Via Navy Sports