WEST POINT, N.Y. - Sophomore OH Ariana Mankus collected Most Valuable Player honors, while senior S Karyn Powell and freshman MB Megan Wilton garnered all-tournament team nods, as the Army volleyball team topped Hofstra, 3-2, in a thriller to capture the 2010 West Point Challenge title.
Playing its second five-set match of the day, Army fell behind 1-0 after Hofstra took the opener, 25-22. The Black Knights bounced back to win the next two by 25-12 and 25-20 scores, respectively. The Pride forced a fifth set with a 25-20 win in the fourth. The teams played through eight ties and five lead changes during a wild fifth set before Army used a 9-4 match-ending run to clinch the title.
"It was quite obvious both teams were tired," said Army head coach Alma Kovaci. "It was a long tournament, especially on Sunday, and you could tell with some sloppy play in the early going. I'm proud of our team for finishing the match despite running out of gas. We won our first five-set match of the year and I consider that a great accomplishment for such a young team. It's was nice to finish what we started."
Mankus notched her seventh double-double of the season with a monster 22-kill effort against the Pride. She added 12 digs and two block assists. Mankus hit for a .311 percentage and committed just three errors in 61 attempts. Sophomore RS Francine Vasquez added 10 kills and 15 digs, while Powell finished with 35 assists. Senior L Brittany Jensen led the Black Knight defense with 17 digs to go with seven assists.
Carolyn Jenkins led Hofstra with 22 kills to tie Mankus, while Nikki Kinnier added 16. Kylee Maneja led all players with 21 digs.
Army fell behind early on in the first set and never recovered. The Pride established a 10-3 lead on a Jenkins kill. The Black Knights pulled back to within two (14-12) midway through following consecutive block assists courtesy of Vasquez and freshman MB Megan Forbes. Army continued to push and inched to within one (19-18) following a Hofstra miscue. The Pride were able to evade an Army rally and ended the set riding a 6-4 run.
Vasquez served for the first four points of the second set as Army took a 4-0 lead that it would not give up. In the most lop-sided period of the match, Army led by as many as 23-11. Hofstra got to within three (13-10), but the Black Knights scored 12 of the final 14 points to secure the 25-12 win. Junior OH Fabiola Castro served for seven points to highlight the decisive stretch.
The teams played back-and-forth throughout a third set that featured six ties. The final knot came at 17-17 on an Army error. Senior MB Amanda Rowell answered with a kill that jumpstarted an 8-3 run to end the set. Vasquez and Wilton both recorded two kills during the surge that provided Army with a 25-20 win and gave the Black Knights a 2-1 lead in the match.
Army's fortune would be reversed in the fourth set, as Hofstra collected a 25-20 victory. With the score tied at 11-11, Hofstra proceeded to use a 12-7 run to cruise ahead by a 23-18 score on an Ayesha Hein kill. An Army timeout would briefly pause the Pride momentum, but they managed to get back-to-back Jenkins kills to end the set.
Hofstra appeared to take control early in the fifth set, establishing a 10-6 lead coming out of an Army timeout. Vasquez recorded a kill to make it 10-7 Hofstra before she stepped up to serve for the next four points, including an ace, to level the score at 11-11. The Pride netted tow of the next three points to take a 13-12 lead, but a Castro kill put the sophomore on the line to serve. The Salinas, Calif., native went on to serve out the set. Powell set Wilton in the middle to end the set.
The West Point Challenge served as Army's final tune-up before the start of Patriot League play next weekend. Army hosts Lehigh on Friday night at 7 p.m. and Lafayette on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m. Both matches will be played at Gillis Field House.
"We showed a lot of heart today," Kovaci said. "We still have a long way to go, but I think this tournament will help prepare us for the start of conference play next week. The team is starting to look like a team."
Match Notes: Four of Sunday's five matches required five sets ... Megan Forbes earned her first career start ... Army fell to Buffalo, 3-2, earlier on Sunday afternoon ... Army has captured the West Point Challenge title in each of the last two years.
West Point Challenge All-Tournament Team
Karyn Powell - Army
Megan Wilton - Army
Nichole Stilwell - Air Force
Caroline Kurtz - Air Force
Jadith Lorenzo - Bryant
Maria Scocca - Bryant
Christine Fritsche - Buffalo
Kayla Govier - Buffalo
Kaylee Maneja - Hofstra
Carolyn Jenkins - Hofstra
Most Valuable Player - Ariana Mankus - Army