Black Knights Volleyball 2013 Season Opener

Molly McDonald and Mary Vaccaro


Molly McDonald and Mary Vaccaro

Aug 28, 2013

This weekend Army volleyball opens up the 35th season in the Black Knights Invitational at Gillis Field House. The Black Knights will host three teams in the tournament including Alabama, Seton Hall and Washington State. The four-team tournament will being at 12 p.m. on Friday and wrap up on Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

"The team is thrilled to have the opportunity to compete against top programs such as Seton Hall, Alabama and Washington State. This is such a great opportunity for us. There is no doubt in my mind that our team will approach the competition this weekend with a winning mindset," said head coach Alma Kovaci.

During the off-season, Kovaci prepared her team for the tournament through a tough preseason. In addition, Kovaci expanded her coaching staff with assistant coach Brigitte Slack. The 2007 Alabama graduate has an impressive background in collegiate coaching as well as firsthand experience in being a Division I athlete.

Army also made headlines this summer in the Patriot League preseason poll, where the team came in second behind American with five first-place votes. Senior Marguax Jarka and junior Mary Vaccaro made the preseason team, while Jarka was voted Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year. Although Kovaci and the team don't put too much focus on the accomplishment, they use the poll as motivation to live up to those expectations and make it to the Patriot League Championship match.

After losing last season's co-captains Francine Vasquez and Ariana Mankus to graduation this past spring, the remaining 13 players have been working to fill that void, as well as introducing four incoming players into the program. Through this tournament, the Black Knights will officially come together as a new.

"Due to being the first tournament of the season, the coaching staff is excited to see how our new players adjust to the starting lineup and how each player competes with the team for the first time. We will focus on reaching our performance goals, controlling our game and gaining some experience that will be extremely valuable for the Patriot League regular season," Kovaci said.

Jarka, a co-captain, will prove herself to be a threat at outside hitter as well as a strong team leader. The Patriot League Academic Honor Roll nominee started all 29 matches and finished third on the team averaging 2.78 kills per set in 2012. Jarka averaged 3.40 kills per set to rank fourth in the conference during Patriot League play. The outside hitter averaged 2.47 digs and 0.29 total blocks per set and reached double-digit kills in 16 matches, 11 of which came during Patriot League play. Joining Jarka at outside hitter will be senior Kerry Horan, sophomore Nicole Perri and incoming freshmen duo, Olivia Fairfield and Janaya Simmons.

Another Army season record holder and co-captain, D.J. Phee will also be a leading force for the Black Knights. The libero holds program records for single-season digs with 577 and single season digs per set. She led the Patriot League in digs in 2012 and ranked 17th in NCAA Division I for digs, averaging 5.60 per set. In addition, Phee owns two of the top 10 single-match dig performances.

Vaccaro, two-time Patriot League Setter of the Year, first team All-Patriot League and conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year will once again take her place as Army's setter. Vaccaro will be joined by senior Christiana Fairfield and sophomore Vanessa Edwards. The combination of each of these veteran players will add depth and experience to the position.

A member of last season's Black Knights Invitational All-Tournament team, senior Megan Wilton will be taking her spot at middle blocker after coming back from last year's injury. The position will have an extensive roster including Molly McDonald, Zoe Kreitenberg and newcomer Alexandra Bell. With all defensive players returning, the team who led in both kills and digs last season will be a sure threat in the Patriot League. Juniors Deanna Dalton, Lauren Wood and Kristen Smeland will pave the way for freshman Dana Robertson.

The Black Knights will kick off the season on Saturday, Aug. 31 against Seton Hall at 10 a.m. Army's next game will be at 7 p.m. against Alabama and will be broadcasted on Knight Vision. The tournament will close with Army playing the final match against Washington State at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, The game will also be on Knight Vision's worldwide webcast. Click here for details.

 

Friday, Aug. 30

Alabama vs. Seton Hall-12 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 31

Army vs. Seton Hall- 10 a.m.

Washington State vs. Alabama- 12 p.m.

Seton Hall vs. Washington State- 4 p.m.

Army vs. Alabama- 7 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 1

Army vs. Washington State- 1 p.m.

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