Army Set For First Road Test At TCU Nike Invitational

Texas native D.J. Phee and the Black Knights play Friday, Saturday.


Texas native D.J. Phee and the Black Knights play Friday, Saturday.

Aug. 30, 2012

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - The Army volleyball team faces its first road test as the Black Knights head to the Texas Christian University Nike Tournament this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. Army enters the four-team event with a 2-1 record and will face Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and the host Horned Frogs.

Army will begin a new series with all three of the aforementioned opponents, while visiting a recruiting hotbed that has produced junior libero D.J. Phee (Allen, Texas) and rookie middle Kaili Crow(Spring, Texas).

"This weekend is going to be a challenge, but I think it's good to present this sort of test early in the season," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "We haven't faced any of these teams before and all three are extremely talented and athletic.

"Anytime we can take our show on the road and represent the program and what this Academy is all about is a good thing," she continued. "There is obviously a huge military presence in Fort Worth, along with it being a great recruiting area for our program."

Army is coming off a second-place showing at the Black Knights Invitational during its opening weekend, collecting wins over Quinnipiac (3-0) and Stony Brook (3-2). Army's lone loss came against Indiana (3-1) in the first meeting between the two programs. Senior co-captain Ariana Mankus and junior middle blocker Megan Wiltonboth earned All-Tournament plaudits, while Wilton added Molten Patriot League Player of the Week honors on Monday.

Wilton hit for a team-high .364 percentage and averaged 3.42 kills per set. She led Army in blocks in all three matches last week. Mankus' 3.25 kills per set are good for second on the team, followed by junior Margaux Jarkawith 2.50 kills per set. The Black Knights are averaging 12.17 kills per set as a team, just under one more than their opponents.

Sophomore Mary Vaccaro, last year's Patriot League Setter of the Year, averaged 9.92 assists and 3.92 digs per set last weekend. Vaccaro is one of five starters to return to this year's veteran starting lineup. Sophomore middle blocker Molly McDonaldmade her fifth career start and is poised to remain in that role after a solid weekend.

Army opens this weekend against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Friday at 4:40 p.m. local time. After dropping their first match of the season at the Baylor Classic, the Islanders have posted three-straight victories. They went 13-20 last fall, which marked the program's 11th season of volleyball.

The Black Knights will take on SMU and TCU on Saturday, Sept. 1. First serve for Army-SMU is set for 10 a.m. local time. The Mustangs went 1-2 at the Georgia Tech Classic with their lone victory coming against Charleston Southern. SMU suffered losses to Cal State Fullerton and the host Yellow Jackets during the weekend. SMU went 15-17 a year ago and return three starters from that squad.

Army and TCU will do battle in the final match of the tournament, set for 7 p.m. local time. TCU opened its season at the Belmont Invitational last weekend, posting a 2-1 mark. The Horned Frogs return five starters from a club that went 25-7 in 2011. TCU finished third with a 9-5 Mountain West record a year ago and make the move to the Big 12 for this season.

Fans can follow along with all three of the Black Knight's matches via GameTracker (click here). Army's match versus TCU on Saturday night will be broadcast live via FrogVision for a nominal subscription fee (click here). Fans who already have a Knight Vision account will have the ability to use that log-in information to access the feed.

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