Sept. 15, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Juniors Margaux Jarka and Megan Wilton paced a balanced Army attack with 14 and 13 kills, respectively, as the Black Knights volleyball team cruised to a 25-15, 25-17, 25-19 win over visiting Albany in the lone match of the West Point Challenge on Saturday night at Gillis Field House.
Wilton hit for a match-high .600 percentage, while Jarka completed a double-double with a season-best 17 digs. She also hit .387 for the match. The Black Knights hit for a .238 percentage as a team, marking its second-best offensive effort of the season.
Sophomore setter Mary Vaccaro led all players with 32 assists, while adding nine digs and seven kills on the night. Senior co-captains Ariana Mankus and Francine Vasquez chipped in with eight and seven kills, respectively.
Junior libero D.J. Phee amassed a match-high 29 digs to lead the Army (7-5) defense. She reached the 20-dig plateau for a third-straight match and registered a season-best mark against the Great Danes. Thanks to Phee's effort, along with 16 digs from Mankus and a host of other solid defensive performances, Army held Albany (3-9) to a .031 hitting percentage as a team.
"I have to give credit to all of the players and staff for bringing such an intense focus to tonight's match," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "Communication was everything tonight. This is a great, competitive group that came into tonight hungry and used that as motivation. We still need to work on being a bit more consistent, but we improved tonight, which is our goal each time we step onto the court."
For the second match in a row, rookies Vanessa Edwards and Zoe Kreitenberg contributed significantly to the win. Edwards played three rotations at setter all night long, while Kreitenberg earned her first collegiate start at middle blocker.
"It's great to see the contributions of our young players," Kovaci said. "They will continue to grow, and getting them experience now is only going to help our cause once Patriot League play gets underway next week."
The teams opened the match playing back-and-forth, but once Army broke a 5-5 tie with a decisive 11-3 run to take a 16-8 lead midway through the action. Wilton (two), Jarka (two), Mankus and Kreitenberg each recorded kills during the run. The final 10-point margin (25-15) matched the Black Knights' largest lead of the set.
Army scored three of the first four points of the second set, but the Great Danes would fight back as the teams played through 11 ties in set number two. The final tie came at 17-17, but a Vasquez kill gave Army the slight advantage. An Albany error prompted a Great Danes timeout, and they would not score again. The Black Knights scored the final eight points of the set unanswered and took the set, 25-17.
The score seesawed to open the third set, but once again Army used a strong finish to secure the victory. With the score tied, 9-9, a Jarka kill ignited an 8-3 Black Knights run to give them a 17-12 lead. That surge would be the difference as Army out-scored Albany 8-7 down the stretch, but the damage had already been done.
Traci Vandergrift and Dunja Prgomet led the Great Danes with eight kills apiece. Three Albany players reached double-digit digs.
Army closes out play at its own West Point Challenge on Sunday, Sept. 17, against Sacred Heart at 1 p.m. Fans not able to make the matinee can follow Army volleyball's official Twitter handle @Army_Volleyball or GameTracker for match updates.
Match Notes: Sophomore defensive specialist Kristen Smeland totaled a season-high four digs ... Army's 87 digs on the night marked a season-best ... in a series that dates back to 1978, Army is 4-2 all-time against Albany.