WEST POINT - Juniors Ariana Mankus and Francine Vasquez led a balanced Army attack with 11 and 10 kills, respectively, as the Black Knigths' volleyball team ushered in 2011 with a 3-0 win over visiting Hartford in the opening match of the Black Knights Invitational at Gillis Field House.
A tight match throughout, the teams played through 21 ties and 10 lead changes. Army won by a combined 17 points (25-20, 25-22, 25-21).
Mankus and Vasquez, both two-time all-league performers, paced a group of five players who recorded at least five kills in the victory. Mankus recorded her first double-double of the season with 12 digs. Senior co-captain Fabiola Castro recorded seven kills and 10 digs on the match. Making her first career start, freshman setter Mary Vaccaro came up with a strong 33-assist effort in her collegiate debut. The rookie standout added four kills and 13 digs.
Army hit for a combined .225 mark for the match, recording 42 kills compared to Hartford's 35. Paced by junior middle Megan Forbes' four total blocks, Army out-blocked Hartford by a 7.0-3.0 margin.
The teams played back-and-forth to start all three sets before eventually pulling away in each. Hartford opened an 8-5 lead to start the match. Army responded with an 8-4 surge and took a 13-12 lead thanks to a Hawk error. The teams went on to play through five ties with the final coming at 17-all on a double-block courtesy of Mankus and Forbes. Forbes and Vasquez teamed-up for a block on the next point and triggered an 8-3 run to end the set, 25-20.
Again, Hartford jumped out to a lead (12-8) to open the second set. Army responded by scoring four of the next five points, knotting the score at 13-13 on a Vasquez-Forbes block assist. Five ties ensued with the final coming at 18-18. Consecutive Vaccaro kills resulted in Army taking a 19-18 lead that it would not relinquish. Hartford pulled within two twice down the stretch, but a solo block from reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Megan Wilton ended the set, 25-22.
The final set of the match began with Army jumping out to a 10-7 lead on second-hit kill from Vaccaro. Three straight points from Vasquez, including two service aces, helped the Black Knights establish an early lead. Army went on to lead by as many as six points (16-10) following a Vasquez kill midway through the action. Hartford scored nine of the next 12 points and tied the set (19-19) on a Jackie Tamburri kill. Army proceeded to end the match riding a 6-2 run, including three Mankus kills, as it took the set by a 25-21 score.
Kami Nethersole paced Hartford with 12 kills and 10 digs. Tamburri added 29 assists.
Army breaks for the afternoon before returning to the court at 7 p.m. tonight against Missouri-Kansas City. It marks the first meeting of the two programs and the end of day one of the Black Knights Invitational.
Due to impending severe weather on Saturday, Aug. 27, all matches have been moved up three hours and will begin at 9 a.m. (Hartford vs. Bryant), 11 a.m. (UMKC vs. Hartford) and 1 p.m. (Army vs. Bryant). The minimum 40-minute warm-up time will be enforced with matches moving more quickly at the discretion of coaching staffs.