Nov. 13, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - With the Patriot League Tournament looming this weekend, the third-seeded Army volleyball team got some welcomed news on Tuesday afternoon as senior outside hitter Ariana Mankus was voted the 2012 Patriot League Player of the Year. In addition to Mankus' citation, sophomore Mary Vaccaro repeated as the conference's Setter of the Year as voted on by the league's head coaches.
"I couldn't be happier for Ariana (Mankus) and Mary (Vaccaro) for earning these awards," said sixth-year head coach Alma Kovaci. "There are so many talented players in this league that for them to standout is truly an accomplishment. They have both done a tremendous job battling through some team adversity in terms of overcoming injuries and some inexperience. Ari and Mary raised their games to another level, which directly resulted in our continued success."
A unanimous selection first team all-league selection, Mankus becomes the third player in Patriot League history to be named Player of the Year multiple times after winning the title in 2009 as well. She is the first Army player to repeat and remains the sixth player in program history to garner the prestigious award.
"The team depends on Ariana and has for several years," Kovaci said of her star outside hitter. "She is our go-to and produces every time. She is such a smart hitter and leads by example. She is the illustration that it's not how big you are, it's how big you play."
A native of Lisle, Ill., Mankus stands 5-foot-8 and leads the Patriot League in kills (3.62 per set). Sitting on 1,545 kills heading into this weekend's tournament, she ranks sixth on the Patriot League's all-time kills list and second in Army annals. Mankus has authored 14 double-doubles (kills, digs) this season and is a three-time Molten Patriot League Player of the Week.
Mankus has started all 28 matches this season and has reached the 20-kill plateau five times. She recorded a career-best 30 kills at Colgate two weeks ago, tallying the most kills by an Army player since 1990.
Mankus' defense is equally as impressive. With 1,418 career digs, she currently ranks eighth in Patriot League history and second all-time at Army. She is 49 digs shy of breaking the Black Knights' career mark. A team co-captain, Mankus is one of three players in Army history to reach the century mark in both kills and digs.
Mankus has benefited from Vaccaro's setting prowess over the last two seasons. The underclassman has played well beyond her years since arriving at West Point last summer.
"We have asked a lot of Mary this season and she has responded extremely well," Kovaci said. "We're using her to the maximum of her capabilities, asking her to set and contribute as a hitter as well. She's done a tremendous job with both, which speaks to her character and willingness to contribute anything for the team to be victorious."
Just days removed from being named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team, Vaccaro has authored 13 double-doubles this season, 12 of which came via the assists and digs column. The other came in a near triple-double as she recorded a career-high 11 kills to go with 34 assists and seven digs in a "Star Match" victory over rival Navy.
A native of Orinda, Calif., Vaccaro's 9.41 assists per set rank second in the Patriot League. She has emerged as an attacking threat as well this season, accumulating a career-high 80 kills.
Vaccaro has reached the 40-assist mark nine times this season and amassed 938 on the year.
Both Vaccaro and Mankus represented Army on the All-Patriot League first team and were joined by junior outside hitter Margaux Jarka and junior libero D.J. Phee on the second team.
The Black Knights will make their conference record 14th-straight Patriot League Tournament appearance this weekend. Third-seeded Army will face defending champion American in Saturday's second semifinal match at 6 p.m. The winner will face either No. 1 Colgate or No. 4 Lehigh in Sunday's championship match at 3 p.m. The tournament will be played at Colgate's Cotterell Court. Please visit www.patriotleague.com for more information.
2012 Patriot League Major Award Winners
Player of the Year - Ariana Mankus, Army, Sr., OH
Setter of the Year - Mary Vaccaro, Army, So., S
Libero of the Year - Rachel Charles, Lehigh, Jr., L
Rookie of the Year - Alex Karika, Navy, Fr., S
Coach of the Year - Ryan Baker, Colgate