ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Army volleyball team blanked service-academy rival Navy to capture its ninth-straight "Star" match against the Midshipmen and post West Point's first overall victory over Navy in the 2010-11 series. The 3-0 victory came by way of 25-18, 25-21 and 25-22 scores in order.
Army (10-9, 3-1 PL), which topped Navy (5-14, 0-4 PL) for the eighth time in the last nine meetings, got another standout offensive effort from sophomore RS Francine Vasquez. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native led all players with 18 kills, while classmate OH Ariana Mankus totaled 14 kills. Both hit for over .350 percentages, while senior S Karyn Powell amassed 39 assists to lead all players.
"The entire staff and I are so proud of the team for bouncing back after last night's loss (at American) with a hard-fought win tonight," said two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year Alma Kovaci. "The team played hard all night. Karyn (Powell) did a good job following the game plan and we got great play out of (freshmen) Megan Forbes and Megan Wilton in the middle. They are both developing into great weapons."
The Black Knights hit .260 as a team with 46 kills and 19 errors on 104 attempts. It marked Army's most efficient offensive effort since a Sept. 11 win over UNC Wilmington. Senior L Brittany Jensen's 15 digs anchored a Black Knight defense which held its counterparts to a .095 showing.
Playing in a hostile environment in Navy's Wesley A. Brown Field House, Army was able to avenge a 3-1 loss to the Mids in last season's regular season showdown in Annapolis.
"I have to give some credit to the Army fans that made it out," Kovaci said. "Over 100 cadets made the trip and really energized the environment. You could hear them all night and it really felt like home for us."
Army fed off the fans to open the match as Powell's serving raced the Black Knights out to a 5-0 lead. Navy rallied immediately, however, countering with eight of the next nine points to take an 8-6 lead. The teams went on to battle back-and-forth through the midway point of the set. Holding a slim 14-13 edge, the Black Knights used an 11-5 run to close the set and capture a 25-18 victory. Freshman OH D.J. Phee kills accounted for Army's final three points.
The Black Knights got off to a fast start to open the second session as well, taking a 7-3 lead on a Vasquez kill. Army would not trail the rest of the way despite Navy's efforts. The Black Knights led by as many as five (16-11) midway through the action, but the Mids proceeded to use an 8-4 run to pull to within on (20-19). Coming out of a Kovaci timeout, put the game away with four unanswered points - all with Mankus on the service line.
The fifth and final set featured five ties and proved to be the most competitive of the night. Neither team led by more than four the entire way, a margin which Army enjoyed at the 19-15 mark following a solo block for freshman MB Megan Wilton. The Mids cut the deficit to two (22-20) on a service aces late, but the Black Knights countered with back-to-back kills from Vasquez and Powell to make it 24-22. An Army error ensued at match-point, but a Navy service error ended the contest, 25-22.
Erin Fortner and Ndidi Ibe led Navy with six kills apiece.
Army takes a break from Patriot League play when the team hosts Manhattan for a mid-week match on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. Conference play resumes when the Black Knights welcome Holy Cross to town for a 4 p.m. showdown on Saturday, Oct. 9. Both matches will take place at Gillis Field House.
Match Notes: Army has won seven of its last nine matches this season ... Saturday night's win accounted for the Black Knights' third win away from West Point ... Army out-blocked Navy, 7-6 ... freshman MB Megan Forbes recorded four total blocks, while fellow rookie MB Megan Wilton added three ... eight players made their way into the rotation during Saturday's win ... Francine Vasquez led the Army attack for the second match in a row after totaling nine kills at American on Friday night.