Oct. 30, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army is headed to the Patriot League Tournament for the 13th year in a row. Junior outside hitter Ariana Mankus hit for a .400 hitting percentage and led all players with 16 kills as the Black Knights swept Holy Cross, 3-0, and clinched one of four spots in the 2011 Patriot League Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Gillis Field House.
The Black Knights cruised to a 25-14, 25-16, 25-18 victory, hit .356 as a team and extended their win streak to seven games. Army and American, currently tied for first place in the Patriot League standings, are the only two teams to clinch a conference tournament berth, set for Nov. 19-20 at the site of the highest seed.
"To clinch a Patriot League Tournament berth is huge," said fifth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "Our goal every year is to win the Patriot League title and you can't do that without playing in the tournament. It's a testament to the hard work and dedication of every player and staff member associated with this program. We wanted to give ourselves a chance to play on in the postseason and today's performance guaranteed that."
Army improved to 19-6 overall and 9-1 in Patriot League play. Holy Cross dropped to 7-20 and 3-7 in conference action.
Mankus was the only player to record double-figure kills, a feat which she has accomplished in five-straight matches. Sophomore middle blocker Megan Wilton finished with nine kills, hit for a .600 attack percentage and did not commit a single hitting error in 15 attempts. Freshman setter Mary Vaccaro totaled 31 assists, eight digs and three kills on the afternoon.
The Black Knights' defense held Holy Cross to a .110 hitting percentage. Junior OH Megan Lynch, who entered the match leading the Patriot League in kills, totaled five kills and seven digs. Army sophomore libero D.J. Phee and senior outside hitter Fabiola Castro paced the defense with 12 digs apiece.
Army led the opening set by a 9-6 score when Castro stepped to the service line. Behind her consistency, the Black Knights churned out 11 unanswered points and took a commanding 20-6 lead. Wilton, Mankus and Vaccaro each contributed hits in a stretch of six-straight Army kills to begin that decisive run. The Black Knights went on to lead by at least 11 points from there.
The teams played through five ties in the second set before Army made its move midway through. With junior Alicia Dotson serving, the Black Knights turned an 8-6 cushion into a 12-6 lead in a hurry. The Crusaders continued to chip away at the deficit, but back-to-back Mankus service aces jumpstarted a 6-0 Army run and gave the Black Knights a 21-12 lead. Holy Cross would get no closer.
Kovaci tweaked her lineup in the third set and the Black Knights showed no signs of slowing down. A Castro service ace broke an 8-8 tie and ignited a 4-0 Army run, which included another Castro ace and kills courtesy of Wilton and Mankus. Holy Cross stayed on Army's heels through the middle of the set as the teams found themselves tied at 14-all. Army took over from there, starting with Francine Vasquez and Megan Forbes teaming for a double-block to give the Black Knights the lead for good. Army scored 11 of the final 15 points to secure the win.
The Black Knights hit the road for a pivotal Patriot League weekend, Nov. 4-5. Army visits service academy rival Navy on Friday night at 7 p.m. and American on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Black Knights defeated Navy in the "Star Match" on Oct. 1 at West Point, N.Y., while the Black Knights' lone league loss came against American (3-2) the night before. Live webcasts will be available for both matches. Visit the volleyball schedule page of www.goARMYsports.com for more details and links.
Match Notes: Kerry Horan and Allison McKearn made their season debuts ... the teams combined for 13 service aces (Army 7, Holy Cross 6) ... Army improved to 10-3 at home this season and 41-5 all-time against Holy Cross.