Army Sweeps Bucknell In Battle For Second Place




WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army hit for a .323 percentage and totaled eight blocks as the Black Knights swept Bucknell (25-21, 25-16, 25-16) in Patriot League volleyball action on Friday night at Gillis Field House. The victory gave Army (12-10, 5-1 PL) sole possession of second place in the Patriot League standings.

"I'm so proud of the way the team competed tonight against a very good Bucknell team," said two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year Alma Kovaci. "They played as a team and followed the game plan of serving and passing tough. I also thought our blocking came up huge today. This was a quality Patriot League win."

Sophomore RS Francine Vasquez led all players with 13 kills to go with a .478 attack percentage. She added eight digs, two assists and two service aces in a standout all-around effort. Classmate OH Ariana Mankus was the only other player to reach double-figure kills with 10, while freshman MB Megan Wilton chipped in with eight kills and three blocks.

Senior MB Amanda Rowell and freshman RS Margaux Jarka added five kills apiece. Senior S Karyn Powell contributed 38 assists, four digs and a pair of kills.

Senior L Brittany Jensen anchored the Black Knight defense all night, topping all players with 12 digs and adding two service aces. Army's eight service aces were its third most this season, while its eight total blocks marked the most against a Patriot League opponent this year.

"I thought Karyn (Powell) did a very good job running the offense and our tough serving and passing allowed us to run our offense," Kovaci added. "Francine (Vasquez) and Megan Wilton played well and I really felt Brittany Jensen came to play today. Her defense was a big reason we were able to contain Bucknell's big hitters."

The teams played point-for-point to open the match, but consecutive Rowell kills midway through the action put the Black Knights on top by a 14-8 score. Army hung on to a sizeable lead from there and led 23-16 on a Bucknell (6-12, 4-2 PL) serving error. The Bison managed out-score Army, 5-2, down the stretch but the deficit was too large for Bucknell to overcome. The Bison evaded one set-point due to an Army miscue, but Jarka put the exclamation point on the 1-0 lead with a kill to the heart of Bucknell's defense.

It was a battle of momentum to start the second set as Bucknell jumped out to a 5-2 lead early on. Army proceeded to score four of the next five points, two of which came on Kristina Keltner service aces, to level the score at 6-6. The Black Knights went on to take a slim 11-8 lead coming out of a Bucknell timeout. The Bison pulled to within one twice more, but each time the Black Knights had an answer. Clinging to a 13-12 edge, Army used a decisive 8-2 run to take a comfortable 21-14 lead. Three-straight Wilton kills followed by a Mankus stinger down the line capped the spurt as Army went on to a 25-16 win.

Bucknell appeared to be on its way to extending the match at the start of the third set. The Bison steamrolled to a 7-1 lead thanks to a start riddled with Army errors. Mankus stopped the bleeding with a kill and went on to serve for six unanswered points, including a pair of aces, to tie the score at 7-7. Again Army benefited from the serving consistency of Keltner as three points from the junior defensive specialist gave the Black Knights an 11-8 lead. Army went on to enjoy a 10-5 run, which gave the Black Knights a 21-13 lead and provided too much distance for Bucknell to overcome. Army ended the match a Wilton kill and a Vasquez service ace.

"Even though we were down, as a coaching staff, we knew this team would continue to fight," Kovaci said. "The points weren't coming, but the team's focus never faltered. They were very confident and that allowed us to come back. They didn't panic."

Sophomore MH Ragin Jackson and senior MB Heidi Kamp led the Bison with seven kills apiece.

Army looks to extend its second-place lead with showdown with rival Colgate on Saturday at Gillis Field House. First serve is set for 4 p.m. Colgate defeated Holy Cross, 3-1, on the road Friday night and comes in sporting a 4-2 Patriot League mark.  

"A major goal for us right now is to be able to put two great matches together and tomorrow will give us a chance to do that," Kovaci said. "Colgate is a very talented, fast team with some good middles. Again, we're going to focus on what we do and what we can accomplish."

Match Notes: Army did its part to recognize breast cancer awareness month by celebrating Dig Pink on Friday night ... fans, coaches and players all wore pink clothing or pink accessories for the cause ... Army's .323 hitting percentage marked its second best outing of the season, bested only by a .342 effort against Marist on Sept. 8 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. ... Army's last four wins have all come by 3-0 scores ... in Friday's other Patriot League matches, American swept Lafayette and Lehigh beat Navy, 3-1, in Annapolis, Md. ... Army now owns a 23-13 lead in its all-time series with Bucknell.

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