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Aug. 25, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army volleyball season officially gets underway this weekend, as Army welcomes Hartford, Bryant and Missouri-Kansas City to Gillis Field House for the Black Knight Invitational. The round robin-style tournament will feature three matches on both Friday and Saturday with both days beginning at noon.
Selected to finish second in the Patriot League preseason poll earlier this week, Army opens the season with a home invitational for the third-straight year. The Black Knights won the event in 2009 and 2010.
Army returns four starters from last fall, including 2010 first team All-Patriot League performer Francine Vasquez on the right side. Former Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year Ariana Mankus is also back at outside hitter, along with 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Megan Wilton at middle blocker. Sophomore D.J. Pheespent the majority of 2010 in the starting lineup as well after embracing more of a defensive role.
This year's team co-captains, Fabiola Castro and Rachel Willis, will be counted on for leadership both on and off the court this fall. The duo will help to break in four plebes in setter Mary Vaccaro, middle blocker Molly McDonald and defensive specialists Deanna Dalton and Kristen Smeland.
Army faces Bryant for a second year in a row after the Bulldogs partook in last year's West Point Challenge. The Black Knights came away with a 3-0 victory in their first match of the tournament. Under the direction of 16-year bench boss Theresa Garlacy, the Bulldogs were picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference preseason poll. Bryant posted an 18-17record last fall and will rely heavily on seniors Maria Scocca and Jazmin Stoner in 2011. Both were hampered by injuries last season. Junior Jadith Lorenzo also tallied 21 double-doubles last season and returns as the Bulldogs' starting setter.
Although they have not met on the volleyball court in two years, Army and Hartford are not strangers. This weekend will mark the 20th meeting between the two programs. Army holds a 13-6 lead in the all-time series. The Black Knights hosted the Hawks in the 2008 West Point Challenge and came away with a 3-0 win. Hartford finished 2011 with an 8-21 overall record. Head coach Don Ferguson was named the 2010 America East Coach of the Year and placed three players on all-conference teams. Lindsay Ford, who graduated in 2011, and Kami Nethersole highlighted with all-conference second team honors, while Dionna Kirton was named to the all-rookie team.
While Army has met both Bryant and Hartford in the past, the Black Knights will face Missouri-Kansas City for the first time in program history on Friday night. UMKC will be seeing Army, Bryant and Hartford for the first time this weekend as well. A veteran club with seven seniors and not a single freshman on the roster, the Kangaroos embark on their first season under head coach Christi Posey. She spent the previous 11 seasons as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Kansas. UMKC returns all six starters from a year ago, including 2009 second team All-Summit League selection Christiana McQuin. Leading the offensive attack for the Kangaroos will be seniors Elizabeth Beck and Kelsey Knoche, while fellow senior Nicole Kerkman is expected to lead the squad's defensive effort.
Admission to the Black Knight Invitational and all volleyball matches at Army is free of charge. Gillis Field House concessions will be open for the tournament. Click here for directions to West Point.
2011 Black Knight Invitational
Friday, Aug. 26
12 p.m. - Army vs. Hartford
3:30 p.m. - Bryant vs. UMKC
7 p.m. - Army vs. UMKC
Saturday, Aug. 27
12 p.m. - Hartford vs. Bryant
3 p.m. - UMKC vs. Hartford
6 p.m. - Army vs. Bryant