Bucknell Volleyball Drops Nail-Biter to American, 3-0
Oct. 17, 2008
LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell volleyball battled throughout its contest with American on Friday night but was unable to come away with the win. The Bison (8-14, 3-3) fell 3-0 to American (14-6, 6-0) in a match that was closer than the score indicates despite an electric crowd that packed Davis Gym in pink for “Think Pink” Night, a special event to promote the fight against breast cancer.
The Orange and Blue gave American a run for its money in the first set. The Eagles started on a 6-3 run, but sophomore Kaitlin Segal posted a kill to make the score 6-4 and swing the momentum in favor of the Bison. Freshman Kyleigh McAhren tied the set at 6 all on a kill of her own, and Bucknell took its first lead of the evening on the next point on an American attack error. McAhren registered two more kills to keep Bucknell up 11-9. That advantage slipped away, however, as the American blockers formed a wall at the net. Katerina Cinkova and Christina Nash combined for three consecutive blocks, and the Bison committed another error. Suddenly trailing 14-11, Bucknell called a timeout.
With a kill by sophomore Heidi Kamp, Bucknell eventually narrowed the American lead. Senior Liz Hazuka chipped in with a kill on the next point, and the Bison found themselves down just one, 22-21. Bucknell finally pulled ahead again, 24-22, after Kamp and senior Shannon Pitsch teamed up for a block. With set point in hand, the Bison committed a service error and soon found themselves down 25-24.
Bucknell was not alone in its struggles to convert on set points, however. A Segal kill erased the Eagles’ first set point, evening the score at 25. After earning their second set point, the Bison committed another service error. Segal traded kills with American’s Claire Recht, and Pitsch served an ace for Bucknell’s third set point. The Bison lost their advantage again, but soon reclaimed it on back-to-back kills from McAhren and freshman Anne Ellenberger. American proved to be too strong, however, and a kill by the Eagles’ Rubena Sukaj closed the set, 32-30 in favor of the visiting team.
Perhaps a bit deflated by the heartbreaking first-set loss, Bucknell started the second slowly. American ran out to a 10-5 lead before Segal and Hazuka again put a stop to the Eagles’ momentum with two consecutive kills. Despite the burst of offense, the Bison could not quite get a handle on the set. Segal recorded one more kill and Pitsch added one of her own, but the home team’s net play sputtered. Kamp and Pitsch combined for a block for the second time during the evening to reduce American’s lead to 17-15, but that was as close as the Bison came. Bucknell dropped the second, 25-17.
Freshman Emily Sawanobori opened the third set serving and quickly led the Bison to a 3-0 advantage. The lead was short-lived, and American soon put itself ahead 11-9. Kamp came out of a Bucknell timeout to reduce that lead to one on the next point, but a service error ruined any chance at a run. Sophomore Rachel Rodriguez recorded a rare kill followed by the more commonly seen kill from Segal. The Bison were right back in the set with the scoreboard reading 12-12.
Bucknell regained its advantage at 13-12 on another service ace from Pitsch. The lead eventually grew to two after kills from Pitsch and Segal and an ace from Hazuka. An American error made the score 20-17. Six points later, through a series of strong American net plays and Bison errors, Bucknell found itself down again, 22-20. Sukaj connected on her 16th kill of the match to end it, 25-21.
With her second ace of the match, Pitsch moved onto the list of top-five all-time servers for Bucknell. The setter now has 128 service aces, tying her for fifth-most in her career as a Bison. Earlier in the season, she became the career assists leader and has accumulated 3,313 over nearly four seasons.
Although Bucknell did not finish on the smiling side of the scoreboard, head coach Cindy Opalski was very optimistic about her team’s performance against the traditionally strong American team.
“The growth of this team over the course of the last two months has been incredible,” said Opalski. “As one of our loyal fans said, ‘It seems like every time we get on the court, we get a little better.’ I’m encouraged by the fact that as we move toward the Patriot League Championship, we should be peaking at the right time. There’s no pressure on us. We were picked fifth (in the league’s preseason poll). We’re welcoming all the challenges before us.”
Segal finished the evening with 11 kills and eight digs, while McAhren chipped in six kills of her own and Hazuka finished with five. Adding to her four kills, Kamp had a season-high six blocks. Sawanobori had a strong match at libero with 13 digs.
In addition to Sukaj’s 16 kills, American was aided by Rebecca Heath’s 10 kills and nine digs. Nash led with 34 assists, and Ivana Cebakova contributed 18 digs.
The Bison are back in action at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18 when they take on Navy in Davis Gym. Live stats on GameTracker will be available on BucknellBison.com.