Oct. 11, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The Army volleyball team hosts Lehigh and Lafayette this Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, as the Black Knights look to improve their second-place Patriot League standing. Fans are encouraged to wear pink for Friday's 7 p.m. match against Lehigh in support of Dig Pink for breast cancer awareness. Army will honor its alumni prior to Saturday's 7:30 p.m. match versus Lafayette.
Playing the fourth and fifth matches, respectively, of an eight-match homestand, the Black Knights enter this weekend with a 12-6 overall record and a 4-1 Patriot League mark. Army sits in sole possession of second place and is one match behind first-place Colgate (5-0). The Black Knights have authored a 6-3 record at Gillis Field House this season.
Lehigh enters the weekend in a three-way tie with American and Navy for third place with a 3-2 conference mark. Lafayette, which won its first five matches to open the 2012 season, has lost four matches in a row and sits in a tie with Holy Cross for seventh place with a 1-4 league record.
This weekend marks the halfway point of the Patriot League season. Three weeks into the action, Army continues to lead the conference in kills (13.62 per set), assists (12.71) and digs (18.08). The Black Knights currently rank seventh in the NCAA in digs per set, while junior libero D.J. Phee continues to anchor the defense with a league-best 5.37 digs-per-set average.
Offensively, Army is coming off a season-high .407 hitting percentage in last week's sweep of Holy Cross. Senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus, named Molton Patriot League Player of the Week on Monday, ranks second in the league averaging 3.37 kills per set. She is 45 kills and 34 digs shy of cracking into the Patriot League's all-time top 10 in both categories.
In addition to Mankus, junior outside hitter Margaux Jarka's 2.69 kills per set rank fifth in the conference. Senior co-captain Francine Vasquez is averaging 1.88 kills and 1.17 digs per set. Army's starting right side hitter in all 18 matches this season, Vasquez leads the team with 18 service aces.
Sophomore Mary Vaccaro's 9.95 assists per set top the Patriot League's setters. She has totaled nine double-doubles this season. Freshman setter Vanessa Edwards has also earned progressively more time as Vaccaro's complement and has totaled 113 assists.
Both Vaccaro and Edwards have benefited from the development of Army's middles as the season as deepened. Freshman Zoe Kreitenberg is averaging 2.07 kills over 28 sets and has started the last seven matches. Sophomore Molly McDonald is averaging 1.37 kills and has totaled 30 blocks in 54 sets played.
Army holds a 30-13 lead in its all-time series against Lehigh, which dates back to the 1985 season. The Black Knights have won 18-straight matches against the Mountain Hawks, whose last victory against Army came in 2003. The Black Knights eliminated Lehigh from the 2011 Patriot League Tournament semifinals.
The Mountain Hawks have won two of their last three matches, including a 3-2 victory at defending champion American two weeks ago. Army and Lehigh have both dispatched the Eagles during the first half of Patriot League play. Junior middle blocker Amanda Clark and senior middle blocker Taylor Poole lead the team offensively, averaging 2.47 and 2.14 kills per set. Poole was a first team All-Patriot League honoree in 2010 and 2011. Freshman middle blocker Ana Vrhel leads the Patriot League with a .310 hitting percentage.
In his second season at Lehigh, veteran head coach Bob Bertucci makes his return to West Point on Friday night. Bertucci, in his second year as Lehigh's head coach, was Army's first head coach in program history. He led the Black Knights to a 17-9 record in 1978. Bertucci also spent four years mentoring 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.
In 44 meetings between Army and Lafayette since 1979, the Leopards have won just four matches. The Lafayette's last win over Army came in the 1995 Patriot League Tournament, as the Black Knights have won 28-straight matches.
Lafayette visits Holy Cross on Friday night looking to break its four-match losing streak. The Leopards' lone Patriot League win came in a 3-1 home decision against Bucknell. Senior setter Sarah Frohnapfel quarterbacks the offense and is averaging 7.51 assists per set. Junior outside hitter leads the team averaging 2.42 kills per set. She also ranks third in the Patriot League with a 0.32 service-aces-per-set average.
Lafayette head coach Terri Dadio-Campbell is in her 11th season coaching at her alma mater.
Fans will have three options to follow along with all of this weekend's action. Chief among those options will be Knight Vision's live webcasts as well as GameTracker (live statistics). Links for both platforms are available by visiting the volleyball schedule page of www.goARMYsports.com. Fans are also encouraged to follow @Army_Volleyball on Twitter for real-time updates throughout the match.