Sept. 1, 2012
FORT WORTH, TEXAS -
The Army volleyball team pushed home Texas Christian University to the brink, but fell just short in a 3-1 (25-19, 20-25, 25-23, 25-22) decision on Saturday night at TCU's Recreation Center. The Black Knights were the only team to take a set from the eventual champion Horned Frogs, earning them second place in this year's TCU Nike Invitational.
Behind a season-high 20 kills on Saturday night, senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus represented Army on the All-Tournament Team. Thanks in large part to her season-best effort in an earlier 3-1 win over Southern Methodist University, Mankus' co-captain Francine Vasquez joined her with All-Tournament accolades.
Mankus paced a trio of Black Knights to reach double-figure kills Saturday night. Juniors Megan Wilton and Margaux Jarka registered 17 and 15 kills, respectively. Mankus added 25 digs and was one of two Army players to come away with a double-double. Sophomore setter Mary Vaccaro totaled a season-high 54 assists to go with 13 digs. Junior libero D.J. Phee helped anchor the Army defense with 19 digs.
"We will be a better team because of this weekend's matches," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "We pushed TCU to the very last point, and I could not be more proud of that fact. The goal tonight was to get out on the court and get better ever point and we did that. We communicated, got our kill numbers up and did not quit."
Army scored the first two points of the match with Phee at the service line. The Horned Frogs leveled the score at 3-3 shortly after. The Black Knights went on to take a 7-5 advantage on a TCU miscue. The Horned Frogs responded with a 7-4 run and took a 12-9 lead nearing the midway point of the opening frame. The Black Knights remained within striking distance, as a Mankus kill into the heart of TCU's defense pulled them within 14-12. Army would not go quietly, pulling within 22-17 before the Horned Frogs scored a 25-19 first-set win.
Army took a 4-2 lead in the second set, including an untouched service ace from Vasquez. With Jarka at the service line, the Black Knights built an 8-4 lead during a stretch that included three-straight Wilton kills out of the middle. Army maintained its lead through the next few rotations and led 15-10 at the midway point. Jarka came up with a pair of kills during the stretch as Vaccaro continued to reverse the ball. Army kept its lead and a Wilton kill to close out a marathon rally, Phee served for set-point with a 24-17 cushion. TCU fended off two set-points before succumbing 25-20 in the second set.
After TCU opened a 3-1 lead, Army fought back to tie the score, 3-3, on a solo block from Mankus. The teams played through four more tie scores before the Horned Frogs settled in a slight 11-9 lead. Army inched within two points on several occasions, including 16-14 on a Jarka hit TCU could not handle. The Horned Frogs faltered on the next two points, including a Mankus service ace as Army leveled the score for a sixth time, 16-16. The teams played toe-to-toe from there, finding themselves tied five more times before TCU finally finished the set with a 25-23 victory.
The Black Knights scored the first four points of the fourth set, the majority for which Vasquez served. A TCU block got the Horned Frogs on the board, 4-1. Army went on to build a 7-3 advantage on a Molly McDonald kill. TCU battled back to pull within a single point over the next few rotations, but the Black Knights would not relinquish the lead. An Army miscue tied the score, 9-9, and TCU took the next point on a long rally to lead 10-9. The Horned Frogs broke a 12-12 tie with a modest 4-1 rally as they established a 16-13 lead midway through the frame. The Black Knights would not back down, however, pulling within 19-18 on a Mankus kill and later 21-20 on the same thing. This time, Wilton and Jarka answered with consecutive kills as Army took its first lead since the early going, 22-21. TCU's big Yvonne Igodan took over from there as the Horned Frogs scored the final four points of the set en route to a 25-22 victory.
Igodan led all players with 24 kills and earned Most Valuable Player honors.
Army returns to the court on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Hudson Valley rival Marist at 7 p.m. The midweek test precedes the inaugural Armed Forces Tournament at the Pentagon slated for next weekend, Sept. 7-8. The Black Knights are set to face Air Force, The Citadel and Denver over the two-day event in the nation's capital.
Match Notes: Army and TCU tied with 67.0 points apiece ... Army is beginning a new series with all three opponents participating in the TCU Nike Invite ... the Black Knights defeated SMU (3-1) earlier Saturday, while falling to Texas A&M Corpus Christi (3-0) in Friday's lone match ... D.J. Phee (Allen, Texas) and Kaili Crow (Spring, Texas) both hail from the Dallas-Fort Worth area ... the TCU Army ROTC cadet color guard presented the colors prior to the match.