Nov. 19, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Army volleyball team will have its chance to win the Patriot League crown as the second-seeded Black Knights defeated No. 3 Lehigh, 3-0, in a Patriot League Tournament semifinal match on Saturday afternoon. Army now faces No. 1 American in a rematch of the 2009 Patriot League Championship on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. at the Eagles' Bender Arena.
The Black Knights swept Lehigh during the regular season and ended the Mountain Hawks' season with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-19, triumph on Saturday afternoon. Defending champion American defeated No. 4 Colgate, 3-1, in the first semifinal.
Sophomores Megan Wilton and Margaux Jarka led all players with 12 kills apiece, while senior co-captain Rachel Willis totaled 10 kills and did not commit a single error. Middle blockers Willis (.556) and Wilton (.400) combined for 22 kills and just two errors for the match. Jarka completed her second double-double in the last three matches with a team-high 21 digs.
"I'm so proud of the team's effort today," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "We've been here before and have a chance to make history once again. It's humbling to be part of this program."
"The middles are the rock of our team," she continued. "They work so hard. It was our plan to pass well and make it a team effort so they (middles) could get the kills we needed. Mary (Vaccaro) did a very good job distributing the offense against a talented, well-coached Lehigh team."
Vaccaro, the 2011 Patriot League Setter of the Year, finished with a match-high 38 assists to go with 13 digs. Sophomore libero D.J. Phee helped anchor fiv e players in double figures with 19 digs. The Black Knights' defense held Lehigh to a .118 hitting percentage, while Army's offense registered a .271 attack percentage for the match. With three players reaching double-figure kills, Army totaled 44 kills and nine errors in 129 attempts.
Statistically the most competitive set of the match, the teams played through six ties and two lead changes in the opening set. Lehigh led 11-10 when Jarka's kill tied the set and spawned a 10-4 decisive run that put the Black Knights in front for good (20-15). Army hit for a match-best .385 attack percentage with 16 kills and one miscue in the first set, leading to a 25-19 victory.
The score tied three times in the early part of set two, but Army pulled away midway through and never let up. Army broke a 5-5 tie with a 9-5 run as back-to-back kills from Wilton and Jarka gave the Black Knights a 14-10 advantage. Lehigh would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.
A tight start to the third set saw Lehigh staying on the Black Knights' heels. A Wilton kill midway through gave Army a 14-13 edge and gave Army a lead it would not relinquish. The Mountain Hawks pulled within two points several times down the stretch, but each time the Black Knights answered. Army closed the set with a barrage of kills - two from Wilton and another courtesy of Jarka - to seal the victory.
Army meets American in the title match for the first time since 2009 when the Black Knights swept the Eagles en route to the program's first Patriot League title in 15 years. American swept Army during the regular season this fall, winning by scores of 3-2 at West Point and later 3-1 at home.
Sunday's championship match can be seen live on ITT Knight Vision beginning at 2 p.m. Click here for subscription details.