Army Visits Lehigh Valley For Final Regular-Season Matches

Junior libero D.J. Phee


Junior libero D.J. Phee

Nov. 8, 2012

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Having already secured a 14th-straight Patriot League Tournament berth, the Army volleyball team closes out the regular season with a swing through the Lehigh Valley to take on Lafayette and Lehigh on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Both matches are set to begin at 4 p.m.

Army joins Colgate and American as three of the four teams set for the 2012 conference tournament. Colgate earned the right to host the four-team event at Cotterell Court in Hamilton, N.Y., Nov. 17-18. The remaining slot remains open for Lehigh or Navy, depending on this weekend's outcomes.

The Black Knights are going for a regular season sweep of both Lafayette and Lehigh this weekend. Army defeated the Leopards and Mountain Hawks by identical 3-0 scores last month at Gillis Field House.

This weekend marks the final push for all eight Patriot League teams. Army (18-8, 9-3 Patriot League) is currently tied with American for second place in the league standings and is in search of its fifth 20-win season under head coach Alma Kovaci.

The Black Knights are coming of a 1-1 weekend in which they fell 3-2 at Colgate before sweeping Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa. Army continues to lead the Patriot League in kills (13.70 per set), assists (12.79), digs (17.99) and opponent hitting percentage (.135). The Black Knights list 11th in the NCAA in digs per set, while junior libero D.J. Phee's 5.51 digs per set lead the league individually and rank 20th in the nation.

While Phee anchors the defense, senior Ariana Mankus and junior Margaux Jarka have been the catalysts of the Black Knights' offense. Mankus leads the Patriot League averaging 3.53 kills per set and put up a career-high 30 kills last week at Colgate. It marked the most kills by any player in the Patriot League this season and the most by an Army player since 1990. Jarka's 2.81 kills pet set list second on the team and sixth in the conference. She enters this weekend riding a four-match double-digit kill streak.

Army's youth at the middle blocker position has seen many players in the rotation - namely, sophomore Molly McDonald and freshman Zoe Kreitenberg. The duo represents the Black Knights' top blockers, along with senior right side hitter Francine Vasquez.

The Black Knights have shown versatility this season, utilizing both reigning Patriot League Setter of the Year Mary Vaccaro and freshman Vanessa Edwards. Vaccaro's 9.41 assists per set rank second in the league, while she has also totaled 80 kills on the season.

Army opens the weekend at Lafayette, which is a program it has enjoyed much success against in recent history. In 44 meetings between Army and Lafayette since 1979, the Leopards have won just four matches. The Lafayette's last win over Army came in the 1995 Patriot League Tournament, as the Black Knights have won 29-straight matches.

Lafayette has lost its last seven matches in a row and are 9-15 overall this season. The Leopards have recorded single Patriot League wins over Bucknell and Holy Cross. Senior setter Sarah Frohnapfel quarterbacks the offense and is averaging 7.28 assists per set. Sophomore right side hitter Camissa Beghou and junior outside hitter Carissa Caliento lead the attack averaging 2.36 and 2.35 kills per set, respectively. Lafayette head coach Terri Dadio-Campbell is in her 11th season coaching at her alma mater.

Army holds a 31-13 lead in its all-time series against Lehigh, which dates back to the 1985 season. The Black Knights have won 19-straight matches against the Mountain Hawks, whose last victory against Army came in 2003. The Black Knights eliminated Lehigh from the 2011 Patriot League Tournament semifinals.

The Mountain Hawks have won four of their last five matches and are vying for the fourth Patriot League Tournament berth. Junior middle blocker Amanda Clark and senior middle blocker Taylor Poole lead the team offensively, averaging 2.90 and 2.24 kills per set. Poole was a first team All-Patriot League honoree in 2010 and 2011.

In his second season at Lehigh, veteran head coach Bob Bertucci will take on the Black Knights for a fourth time in his short tenure with the Mountain Hawks. Bertucci was Army's first head coach in program history, leading the Black Knights to a 17-9 record in 1978. He also spent four years mentoring Army's Kovaci during her Hall of Fame career at Temple. Bertucci was the head coach at Temple for 16 seasons before moving on to Lehigh.

Live statistics for both matches will be available. Please visit the Army volleyball schedule page of www.goARMYsports.com for links. Lehigh will offer a live webcast of Saturday's match for a nominal subscription fee. Fans are also encouraged to follow @Army_Volleyball on Twitter for periodic updates throughout the weekend.

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