Sept. 22, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Fresh off an exhausting five-set win over American on Friday night, the Army volleyball barreled forward and took down service academy rival Navy in a 3-1 match on Saturday night at Wesley A. Brown Field House. The victory marked the Black Knights' 11th-straight "Star" match win over the Mids and extended their win streak to four matches on the season.
Army has a firm 40-10 hold on the all-time series, including its 11-straight "Star" matches. The Black Knights will add a gold star to their collection for this year, which already includes a silver star for defeating Air Force on Sept. 8 at the Pentagon.
The Black Knights jumped all over Navy in a 25-19 first-set win, but the Mids battled back to win a marathon 30-28 set two and tie the match. The ensuing two sets belonged to visiting Army, which improved to 10-5 overall and 2-0 in Patriot League play. Navy dropped to 5-9 overall and 1-1 after the first conference weekend.
"Tonight was a hard-fought match on both sides, like any Army-Navy game should be," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "Navy has shown a lot of improvement and they played really well tonight. I was pleased with the way our middles stepped up and thought Mary (Vaccaro) stepped up huge in this match. Overall, it was a great team effort. When we needed to close it out, we were able to."
Sophomore setter Mary Vaccaro completed a double-double with a career-high 11 kills to go with a match-best 34 assists. The Orinda, Calif., native hit for a .450 percentage on the night. One of Vaccaro's favorite targets all evening, junior outside hitter Margaux Jarka paced the Black Knights with 16 kills. Senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus totaled 12 kills and 20 digs. Mankus committed just one error in 31 swings.
Army's defense matched a season-high 12 total blocks, including six courtesy of senior right side hitter Francine Vasquez. Freshman middle blocker Zoe Kreitenberg added four, while Vaccaro and junior middle blocker Megan Forbes chipped in with three blocks apiece. Holding down the back row defense, junior libero D.J. Phee led all players with 22 digs. Freshman setter Vanessa Edwards tallied 13 digs to complement a career-high 23 assists.
Army came out swinging to open the match, hitting for a .323 percentage in the first set. However, it was Navy taking an early 8-3 lead. The Black Knights chipped away at the deficit and used a 9-2 run to move ahead 12-10 on a Jarka kill midway through the action. The teams played back-and-forth and found themselves tied at 19-19 late. Navy would not score another point as the Black Knights closed the set on a 6-0 run and took a 1-0 lead in the match.
The teams were in for a marathon second set, which featured 14 ties scores throughout. Neither team led by more than three points the entire way and both had multiple chances to put the set away down the home stretch. A Jarka kill leveled the score for a final time at 28-28, but the Mids blocked Army's next attempt and served for the set with a 29-28 lead. A Black Knight hitting error sealed the Mids' lone win of the night.
Army took an 11-8 lead in the third frame, totaling eight kills before committing a single error (.471 hitting percentage through 11th point). The Black Knights continued to take it to the Mids in the third set, turning an 11-10 edge into a 25-16 lop-sided win.
Carrying momentum from the third set victory, Army took a seemingly comfortable 11-5 lead in the fourth frame. However, a gritty Mids club would not go quietly as they inched themselves back into contention down the stretch. Navy used a 13-7 run in the middle of the set to level the score at 18-all. The teams would find themselves tied three more times before the match concluded. Army had the upper hand in a 4-2 run to close the match, which fittingly ended with a Vaccaro kill.
Case Trimble (11 kills), Erin Fortner (10) and Alex Cassel (10) led Navy's offense in the loss.
Army begins an eight-match homestand with a pair of Patriot League matches next weekend. The Black Knights host Bucknell (Sept. 28) and Colgate (Sept. 29) next Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Gillis Field House.
Game Notes: Playing its 15th match of the season, Army is more than halfway through its regular season schedule ... tonight's volleyball match was one of two Army-Navy competitions going on today as the Black Knights lead the Mids after day one of the annual "Star" match on the golf course.