By Jed Johnson
The Crimson Hawks split this weekend’s matches against the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Lock Haven University, bringing theirPennsylvania State Athletic Conference record to 9-6.
Despite winning its first two sets Friday against the Mountain Cats, 28-26 and 25-20, Pitt-Johnstown won the final three sets, 25-12, 25-16 and 15-9, to escape a home loss.
Crimson Hawks head coach Scott Pennewill said that finishing matches has been an issue this year.
“What will happen from time to time is that the serving – instead of staying aggressive because it’s tight – will get safe,” Pennewill said. “Serving safe is not going to get it done when you’re playing a really good team. You have to give your best effort, just like you did at the beginning of the match at the end – you can’t fluctuate.”
Alexis Anderson (junior, marketing) led IUP with 18 kills. Natalie Cignetti (junior, natural sciences) recorded 12 kills on the evening.
Despite the Mountain Cats holding a narrow 56-52 advantage over the Crimson Hawks in kills, Pitt-Johnstown had 14 fewer errors on the night than IUP did.
The Crimson Hawks bounced back Saturday afternoon against Lock Haven, sweeping the Bald Eagles in straight sets, 25-15, 25-23 and 25-18. Coach Pennewill was proud of the team’s ability to bounce back, having done so a few times this year.
“[The ability to bounce back] is a testament to character and keeping poise – staying focused on things that we can control,” Pennewill said. “Once the previous match ends, that’s it. We learn from it and go into the next game plan, and it’s a very short turnaround.”
Cignetti led IUP with 17 kills, as well as hitting at a team-high .455 clip.
Her performance was good enough for the most amounts of kills by a single player in a three-set match this season, as well as the third-best hitting percentage by a single player this season for players with a minimum of 12 kills.
Coach Pennewill said that Cignetti is going to have to produce those kind of numbers against better opponents in the matches to come.
“It’s one thing to play a team that has won four matches [Lock Haven] than another that has won double-digits [Clarion],” Pennewill said. “[Cignetti] is going to have to be much more creative and being successful to create that kind of hitting percentage [against her head-to-head matchup].”
As a team, the Crimson Hawks outhit the Bald Eagles, .150 to .037.
IUP’s last three matches this season will be against PSAC Southwest foes.
The Crimson Hawks travel to Clarion Tuesday for an evening match before making trips to California University of Pennsylvania and Seton Hill University Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, respectively.
Coach Pennewill said that Clarion’s matchup is the only one the team is thinking about right now.
“It’s the same preparation, same procedure – hopefully, being able to put into place a confidence that is going to get them the success we’re looking for,” Pennewill said.
“Do what you do day in and day out – work on the areas of weakness, continue to grow the areas of strength and hopefully you’re better this time than you were the last time you saw [Clarion].
“We have to win on the road, which traditionally is not always an easy thing to do. You don’t know what kind of crowd they’re going to have.”