WASHINGTON – Avenging its only conference loss of the season, the American University volleyball team defeated Lehigh, 25-17, 25-23, 25-20, in the championship match of the 2014 Patriot League Tournament Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Eagles improved to 26-6 on the season, earning their 12th Patriot League title in 14 seasons. AU also remained perfect at home against league competition this season, holding a 30-0 set record against PL opponents in Bender Arena.
Also receiving all-tournament honors were Lehigh's Mariah Brantley and Ana Vrhel, Army's Nicole Perri and Navy's Gaby Smith.
Against the Mountain Hawks, Smidova registered her 19th double-double of the season with 34 assists and 16 digs, while Cappellino finished with a match-high 14 kills to go along with 13 digs. McCaddin added 10 kills and six blocks, posting a .556 hitting percentage.
Lehigh entered Sunday's match on a hot streak, winning 10 straight matches, including the regular-season finale versus American. It appeared that once again the Mountain Hawks would give the Eagles all they could handle, as the two teams traded kills to start the first set.
While Lehigh took a 15-14 lead at the media timeout in the opening set, American came out of the break ready to take control. The Eagles regained the advantage before closing out the set on a 7-0 run to win 25-17.
The second set was also a back-and-forth affair, with 12 tie scores and four lead changes. After American pushed ahead to a 16-15 advantage, the Eagles were able to stay a point or two ahead of the Mountain Hawks. However, a late surge by Lehigh tied the score at 23-23. The Eagles responded with solid play at the net, recording two blocks, including a solo stop by senior Kristyna Lindovska, to take the 25-23 victory.
With the strong finish in set two, American was able to carry its momentum into the third set. AU pushed its lead to 12-6 and stayed ahead for the remainder of the match. The Mountain Hawks cut the margin to 23-20 late in the set, but the Eagles came up with the final two points, closing out the victory with an ace from senior Megan Rosburg.
Although the Eagles hit below their season average for the match, they stood out defensively, holding Lehigh to a .110 attack percentage and recording 10.5 team blocks. AU also had three players finish with double-digit digs, led by Rosburg with 18.
"There were key moments, and we took advantage of the key moments," said American head coach Barry Goldberg. "Being at home and having our crowd certainly helped us pull through those moments.
"Our block has continued to increase over the past month and a half—that's an important aspect [going into the NCAA Tournament]. We've got to continue to be a good ball control team and get physical. We're going to have to stay physical at the net because these next teams get bigger and stronger as you go along."
With the Patriot League's automatic NCAA bid in hand, the Eagles await the announcement of their first-round opponent. The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball selection show is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 30, at 8:30 p.m., and will air on ESPNU.