LEWISBURG, PA – Bucknell volleyball is coming off one of its most successful home tournaments in recent years, and the Bison will try to keep that success rolling for the start of Patriot League play this weekend. Bucknell opens conference action Friday at 7 p.m. at Lafayette, a team it has beat in four of the last six meetings. Bucknell will then try to snap a three-match losing streak to Lehigh when they square off at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Bethlehem, Pa. Live stats will be available for both matches.
The Bison had plenty to smile about at the end of last weekend’s Bucknell Tournament. The Orange and Blue ended a five-match losing streak, Karen Campbell (Chesapeake, Va./Cape Henry Collegiate) and Jessica Serrato (Millbrae, Calif./Saint Ignatius College Prep) were both named to the All-Tournament Team and Cindy Opalski claimed her 400th career head coaching win. In the Providence match alone, which turned into Bucknell’s first straight-sets win of the year, Kat Tauscher (Washington, D.C./National Cathedral School) recorded her first career double-double with 19 assists and 10 digs and Kebah Edoho (Odenton, Md./Arundel) set a career high with eight blocks in addition to Opalski’s milestone victory.
Both Campbell and Serrato are repeat honorees when it comes to all-tournament accolades. Campbell was recognized in three of the team’s four tournaments in the early half of the season, having also been named an all-tournament selection at the La Salle and Duquesne/Robert Morris invitationals. Serrato was also honored at the Duquesne/Robert Morris event.
Each of Bucknell’s first four wins this season came in four sets. The Bison changed that trend last weekend as they defeated both Providence and Quinnipiac in three sets in back-to-back matches. Quick bouts have been the story against each of its first Patriot League foes as well. Each of the last four meetings with Lafayette have been decided in straight sets with Bucknell winning three of those, while six of the last seven against Lehigh have ended after three sets as well. The Bison are 3-3 in those contests.
Lafayette, who enters Patriot League play at 7-4 on the year, has yet to win a three-set contest this fall. Most recently, the Leopards fell 3-0 to Manhattan last night. Like Bucknell, their early schedule included a meeting with Fordham, which ended in a 3-1 win for the Rams. Junior Karrisa Ciliento (106 kills) and Sarah Frohnapfel (320 assists) lead the way offensively for Lafayette, while defensive distribution is a bit more even. Three different Leopards have recorded at least 100 digs this fall.
Bucknell and Lafayette split last season with each team winning in straight sets on their home court. The mirror-image outcomes were fitting as the Bison and the Leopards tied for sixth in the 2011 Patriot League standings. Lafayette was 10-17 overall and 3-11 in conference play a year ago.
The Bison have a 34-21 all-time record against the Leopards. That includes a 5-0 mark in favor of Bucknell when the two meet in the first Patriot League match of the year. In the league’s first 22 years of existence, Bucknell is 14-8 in its conference debuts, but its last conference-opening victory came in 2008 opposite Navy.
Lehigh fared better than its main rival last season, going 19-10 overall. Its 10-4 mark in the Patriot League earned it third place and a postseason berth. That success has not yet carried over into the 2012 campaign, however, as the Mountain Hawks enter the weekend at 3-6. They collected their latest win this week in five sets against Princeton. Senior Taylor Poole, who was a First Team All-Patriot League selection last year and was named to the Preseason All-League Team earlier this fall, leads Lehigh with 67 kills and 24 blocks so far. Junior Rachel Charles, the 2011 Patriot League Libero of the Year, is tops in digs again with 144.
Success in the Bucknell-Lehigh series has come and gone in waves since they first met in 1978. The Mountain Hawks won 24 of the first 28 matchups. Things evened out a bit in the late 1990s before the Bison went on a 14-match winning streak from 2003-09. Bucknell won 42 of 45 sets during that stretch, but Lehigh has started to put the series back in their favor since then. Having won four of the last five matches against Bucknell, including each of last fall’s contests in three sets, Lehigh is now 38-25 all-time against the Bison.
The Bison return to the road for a second consecutive weekend for the next Patriot League stand. Bucknell will head to West Point, N.Y., for a 7 p.m. meeting with Army on Sept. 28 and Worcester, Mass., to take on Holy Cross at 4 p.m. on Sept. 29.