Oct. 26, 2012
WORCESTER, Mass. - Patriot League play resumes as the Army volleyball team visits Holy Cross on Saturday for a 4 p.m. match at the Hart Center. The Black Knights swept the Crusaders in the first regular-season meeting this fall and are looking for their eighth Patriot League win of the season.
Firmly sitting alone in second place in the latest conference standings, Army (16-7, 7-2) is on pace to secure a record 14th-straight Patriot League Tournament berth, but cannot officially do so until next weekend's matches are underway. Holy Cross (2-23, 1-8) enters Saturday's match in last place in the conference.
In the first meeting of 2012 at Gillis Field House, Army dominated in a 25-13, 25-6, 25-9 win over the Crusaders. Senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus led all players with 13 kills, a .667 hitting percentage and 12 digs. Mankus' standout all-around performance highlighted a total team effort for the Black Knights, which saw six different additional players record at least three kills.
Junior outside hitter Margaux Jarka and freshman middle blocker Zoe Kreitenberg registered eight and seven kills, respectively. The Black Knights hit for a season-best .407 percentage on the match. Army's defense, equally as impressive, held Holy Cross (1-18, 1-4) to a -.047 hitting percentage. Along with Mankus' 12 digs, junior libero D.J. Phee totaled 11 digs.
The Black Knights enter Saturday afternoon's showdown leading the Patriot League in kills (13.62 per set), assists (12.74), digs (18.31) and opponent hitting percentage (.134). Army ranks ninth nationally in digs per set. Phee leads the Patriot League and ranks 19th in the NCAA averaging 5.62 digs per set.
Also leading the conference, Mankus ranks first averaging 3.40 kills per set. Her 12-kill effort in a 3-0 win over Manhattan on Wednesday night propelled the Lisle, Ill., native into eight place on the Patriot League's all-time kills list with 1,459. She also ranks in the league's top 10 with 1,368 career digs.
In addition to Mankus powering the Army offense, Jarka and Kreitenberg are averaging 2.78 and 2.15 kills per set, respectively. The Black Knights have utilized a pair of setters this season with freshman Vanessa Edwards providing a solid complement to reigning Patriot League Setter of the Year Mary Vaccaro. The duo enter Saturday's match averaging 9.44 and 3.55 assists per set, respectively.
Army has enjoyed great success against Holy Cross under the direction of head coach Alma Kovaci, owning a perfect 11-0 record against the Crusaders during her six-year tenure. The Black Knights hold a 43-5 advantage in an all-time series that dates back to 1982. Holy Cross' last win (3-2) over Army came in 2005 in Worcester.
The Crusaders are coming off their second win of the season, a 3-0 home victory against Bryant on Wednesday night.
Senior outside hitter Megan Lynch, a three-time second team All-Patriot League honoree, leads the team and ranks seventh in the conference in kills (2.72 per set). Lynch led all players with 14 kills in the win over Bryant. Sophomore Hanna Grace Stokes is in her second year as the Crusaders' starting setter and averages 5.41 assists per set.
Defensively, Holy Cross relies heavily on senior captain Elizabeth Watters. A veteran libero, Watters' 3.94 digs per set top the team and rank fifth in the Patriot League.
Fans can follow all of Saturday afternoon's via live statistics or Holy Cross' live video feed of the match. Links for both outlets are available by visiting the volleyball schedule page of www.goARMYsports.com. Periodic Twitter updates will also be available through @Army_Volleyball.