Published on February 4th, 2013 | by Kevin Ryan0
Tough Schedule Leads to Tough Start
Kevin Ryan, Sports Editor
Above photo by Steve Woltmann: Senior Jay Petty achieved his 1,000th career kill on Jan. 26 against George Mason.
After finishing in the top four in the NCAA last May, the Flyers knew there was going to be high expectations for this year’s team with 15 players returning from last year.
To make expectations even higher, the Flyers opened the season ranked No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association D-I-II Poll, and they began their season in the very competitive UCSB Invitational.
UC San Diego was the first test for Lewis with the match being played at Robb’s Gym in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Flyers got off to a hot start going up 2-0 on the Tritons, but San Diego regrouped after the second set winning the next three to win the match 3-2.
“UC San Diego is a really good team,” said head coach Dan Friend. “We were in pretty good shape those first two games, and they got better. We just didn’t finish them off and step on the gas.”
The Flyers tried to rebound a couple of hours later when they took the court against No.13 UC Santa Barbara, but were swept by the Gauchos 25-15, 25-19, 25-19. The closest set was the third when there were 11 ties, but UCSB captured the lead by going on a four-point swing, and they eventually took the match.
The following day, the Flyers’ struggles continued against No. 15 California Baptist when they lost 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23).
When asked if he was concerned about the team after the invitational,” Friend said.
“No I wasn’t concerned. I think it showed something we had to work on. We had three or four guys get sick; we had an injury, so it put some of that stuff into perspective with these matches too. Understand, too, some other guys got some opportunity out there.”
The Flyers then flew to Provo, Utah, where they had a few days to rest and work on the improvements they needed to make before their next match against No. 2 Brigham Young University, a team they had never beaten before. The Flyers had lost 12 consecutive matches to the team, but the layoff proved to be extremely helpful as Lewis went on to defeat the Cougars 3-2 (21-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-18, 15-9) for the first time in school history.
When asked what his reaction was after the game, Friend said, “Super proud, that was awesome. Playing in front of a crowd of like three or four thousand, being down 0-2 and have the resilience to fight back and put ourselves in that position was just a great team effort.”
Redshirt sophomore Geoff Powell stood out the most for Lewis as he hit a career high .767 and had 24 kills.
“I think he was fantastic,” Friend said of Powell. “He had one of those matches where he was just in a groove. Anything he hit was going where he wanted to, he had some great swings and it was fun to watch that.”
BYU would not go away, though, as Lewis had another match against the Cougars the following night. This match, however, would not be a game to remember as the Flyers were swept 25-22, 25-16 and 25-14.
e tough loss on Jan. 18 when they traveled to University Park, Pa., to play the No. 6 Nitty Lions. Redshirt senior Jay Petty and sophomore Eric Fitterer each had double-doubles with Petty having 10 kills and 10 digs and Fitterer coming up with a career-high 12 kills and 11 block assists. These performances would not be enough, though, as Penn State won the match 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-18).
“I thought we played them well,” Friend said. “We go into their environment, they’re on a 56-match win streak and we block 18 balls per game. We just made some unforced errors at some bad times.”
After the game, Lewis traveled 60 miles to Loretto, Pa. to face off against St. Francis University. Petty and Powell helped the Flyers snap their two-game losing streak with Petty having 18 kills and nine digs and Powell having 16 digs.
When asked if the win was a well-needed win for the team, Friend said, “I would say so. I think what you were seeing was a three weeklong road trip, and that was the tail end of it. I think there was a lot of heart in that match.”
Lewis returned home Jan. 25 for their first home match of the year against NJIT. The Flyers couldn’t have been more excited to be back on their home floor with their crowd as they swept the Highlanders 25-16, 25-14, 25-23. Lewis had control during the first two sets, but they had to battle to win during the third.
Tied at 10-all, NJIT went on a seven-point run to make it 17-10 and took their first lead of the night. Lewis then put a run of their own together tying the set at 21. In the end, Lewis capitalized on crucial mistakes made by the Highlanders and completed the sweep.
The following night, Lewis hosted another tough opponent, George Mason. The Flyers went on to win 3-2 (25-18, 25-21, 29-27, 25-21, 15-9). Petty had a match-high of 21 digs and 19 kills, and he also earned his 1,000th career kill against the Patriots.
Friend was impressed with the milestone.
“I think he’s been a huge impact on what we’re able to accomplish the past few years, and I look forward to him having a great season this year,” Friend said.
The Flyers now have a record of 4-5 (as of Jan. 31), and they began conference play Feb. 1 and 3 against Grand Canyon University.
The Flyers’ next home game will be Feb. 8 against Lindenwood University with the first serve set for 7 p.m.