Sept. 19, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army volleyball team hosts Lehigh and Bucknell this Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, as the Black Knights look to improve their 3-7 record. This weekend will mark the first matches of Patriot League play for Army coming off the West Point Invitational, Valpo Popcorn Classic and Service Academy Challenge in previous weeks.
Army enters the weekend with a 3-7 record, with wins against Marist, Rhode Island and Air Force. Patriot League competitors, Lehigh (9-3) and Bucknell (6-3), will play Lafayette and Holy Cross prior to this weekend’s events, respectively.
“We are really excited to open up Patriot League season in front of our fans,” said head coach Alma Kovaci. “We've played some tough competition this pre-season and we've learned a lot about ourselves. We are ready to start this journey and look forward to the competition. Lehigh and Bucknell are much improved teams compared to previous years. They can both attack from all positions and they will be tough to defend. At the end of the day, we will still focus on our goals and making sure we control our side of the court.”
Offensively, Army is coming off a season high .441 hitting percentage in last weekend’s loss against Yale at the Service Academy Challenge. Freshman outside hitter Olivia Fairfield leads Army this season with 117 kills and with a .333 average hitting percentage while senior co-captain outside hitter Margaux Jarka is not far behind with 116 kills at the net. Junior setter Mary Vaccaro leads the Black Knights with 288 assists, ranking third in the Patriot League with 9.93 assists per set. Sophomore setter Vanessa Edwards has also earned progressively more time as Vaccaro’s complement and has totaled 144 assists.
Senior co-captain libero D.J. Phee leads Army with 199 digs and holds the second place spot in the Patriot League. Phee not only leads the team, but has recently broken the Army all-time digs record. After accumulating 1,665 digs for the Black Knights since joining the team in 2010, Phee broke the digs record previously held by Deanna Machlan (1992-95) who had 1,446 digs. Following Phee, Jarka has contributed 117 digs in the 2013 season thus far.
Army holds a 31-13 lead in its al- time record 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. Lehigh comes into Friday’s match with an average hitting percentage of .198 and has been able to hold its opponents to .146. Leaders for the Mountain Hawks include juniors Jade Van Streepen and Kaylynn Genermaras each with 104 kills each on the season and senior Rachel Charles with 139 digs. Friday’s game will be Lehigh’s second Patriot League match after coming off of a 3-1 win against Lafayette on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
In his third season at Lehigh, veteran head coach Bob Bertucci makes his return to West Point on Friday night. Bertucci was Army volleyball’s first head coach in which he led the Black Knights to a 17-9 record in 1978. Bertucci also spent four years instructing current Army head coach Alma Kovaci during her Hall of Fame career at Temple. He was the head coach at Temple for 16 seasons before moving on to Lehigh.
Army has also seen great success in their history with Bucknell, with a perfect 11-0 record under Kovaci. The Black Knights hold a 27-13 advantage in the all-time series. Senior Morgan Mientus lead the Bison with 83 kills on the season and has led the team to a .182 hitting percentage in nine matches. Sophomore Katie Price leads Bucknell’s defense with 146 digs while freshman Erika Eastly leads the Patriot League with 150 blocks. The Bison will play their first Patriot League match against Holy Cross on Friday Sept. 19.
For those who cannot attend the matches this weekend, both will be available via GameTracker while Saturday night’s match against Bucknell will be broadcast on Knight Vision (subscription fees apply). Fans are also encouraged to follow @Army_Volleyball on Twitter for real-time updates throughout the weekend.