Army Falls Short In 3-1 Match Versus VCU

Zoe Kreitenberg

Zoe Kreitenberg

Sept. 14, 2012

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - Senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus led all players with 21 kills and 61 attempts, but it was not enough as the Army volleyball team dropped a 3-1 decision to visiting Virginia Commonwealth in the Black Knights' first match of the fifth annual West Point Challenge at Gillis Field House. After racing to a 25-21 first-set win, Army fell just short in the remaining three sets (27-25, 25-22, 25-23) and dropped to 6-5 on the season.

VCU entered the hot and improved to 11-1 this fall, while extending its win streak to seven matches.

Mankus completed her sixth double-double (kills, digs) of the season with 19 digs. Junior middle blocker Megan Wilton added 13 kills and tied freshman setter Vanessa Edwards with two block assists. Edwards, who relieved starter Mary Vaccaro in the third set, finished the match with a career-high 14 kills, six digs and a kill. Vaccaro totaled 37 assists and three kills.

In addition to Edwards, Army's offense got a boost from some unfamiliar faces Saturday night as rookie middle blocker Zoe Kreitenberg hit for a team-best .429 average to go with a career-high eight kills.

VCU hit for a .228 average as a team, while Marina Samadan and Kristin Boyd finished with 13 kills apiece.

In the driver's seat to open the match, Army cruised a 15-9 lead on back-to-back Mankus kills midway through the action. The Rams retaliated with three unanswered points and remained on the Black Knights' heels throughout. An Army miscue allowed VCU to inch within 20-18, at which point Army head coach Alma Kovaci called timeout. Her team responded with a Francine Vasquez kill, which ignited a 5-3 run to end the set with a 25-21 victory.

The teams played through 11 ties in a back-and-forth second frame. Army broke an 11-11 tie with five unanswered points, including all three of Vaccaro's kills, and took a 16-11 lead. Coming out of a VCU timeout, the Black Knights continued to remain in control and later led 20-16 on a Vasquez kill. The Rams' offense began clicking at that point, as they used a 7-3 run to level the score at 23-23. Both teams had a chance to seal the match down the stretch, but it was back-to-back VCU kills that secured its 27-25 triumph and tied the match at 1-1.

The Rams proceeded to score five of the first six points of the third set. The Black Knights chipped away and went on a 9-5 run, while Wilton and Kreitenberg combined for three-straight kills to tie the score, 10-10. The teams played things close during the middle portion of play, but it was VCU using a modest 4-0 run to turn a 15-15 tie into a 19-15 lead. Despite Army inching within a single point twice from there, the Rams never trailed again.

The fourth set played much like the first three with both teams having a chance to make their run. Fourteen ties and a match-high eight lead changes peppered a set in which neither team led by more than three points. Consecutive kills courtesy of Mankus and Wilton in order put the Black Knights on top, 23-22. The next three points belonged to VCU as the Rams powered past Army en route to their seventh-straight win.

The West Point Challenge continues on Saturday, Sept. 15, with the Black Knights taking on Albany in the only match of the day. Army hosts the Great Danes at 7:30 p.m. at Gillis Field House. Knight Vision will carry the action via live webcast, while fans can also get periodic updates via Army volleyball's official Twitter handle @Army_Volleyball.

Match Notes: Junior libero D.J. Phee reached the 20-kill plateau for the second-straight match ... VCU defeated Albany, 3-0, earlier on Friday afternoon ... Albany turned around to blank Sacred Heart in the second match ... Army and VCU met for a sixth time in program history and first time since 1991 ... the Rams hold a 4-2 edge in the all-time series.

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