Sophomore RS Francine Vasquez led all players with 22 kills, while classmate OH Ariana Mankus added 13 as the Army volleyball team edged Holy Cross on the road, 3-2, in Patriot League action. The Black Knights lost the first two sets but rallied to win the next three to improve its conference mark to 9-1 and clinch a spot in the 2010 Patriot League Tournament.
The Black Knights are guaranteed to finish in the top four as it would win the tiebreaker against current fifth-placed Lehigh. Undefeated American (10-0) has also clinched a tournament berth. Army and American will meet in a rematch of the 2009 Patriot League Championship match next Saturday, November 6th, at 7 p.m. in West Point, N.Y.
Vasquez hit for a .327 average with just six attack errors over five sets, while completing her second double-double of the season with 14 digs. Mankus’ 18 digs also earned her a double-double. Senior L Brittany Jensen anchored the Army defense with a career-high 27 digs.
Senior S Karyn Powell, named Patriot League Player of the Week last Monday, eclipsed the 50-assist mark for the second time this season in leading all players with a career-best 54 assists. Both teams’ offenses hit below .200 on the night, but stellar defensive play resulted in the five-set thriller.
The Black Knights opened the night with consecutive 25-20 setbacks to fall into a 2-0 hole against the Crusaders.
Army avoided the sweep as it squeaked out a 25-23 victory in the third to make it 2-1 in favor of Holy Cross. The third frame went back-and-forth throughout before the Black Knights got back-to-back kills from Vasquez and freshman MB Megan Wilton late to take a 24-21 lead. The Crusades owned the next two points, but the Black Knights were the beneficiaries of a Holy Cross service error to end the rally (25-23).
With momentum on their side, the Black Knights cruised to a 9-3 lead early in the fourth set on a kill from junior OH Fabiola Castro. The Crusaders used a 6-1 run from there to pull within one (10-9), but Army countered with a crushing 15-4 run to close the set and win a lop-sided 25-13 decision.
The fifth set featured seven ties and three lead changes alone. Holy Cross took a 7-5 lead when Army head coach Alma Kovaci called time out to rally her troops. The fourth-year mentor’s plan proved valuable as the Black Knights proceeded to score eight of the next nine points to take a 13-8 advantage on consecutive kills from senior MB Amanda Rowell. Holy Cross did not go quietly, however, as the Crusaders out-scored Army 5-2 to end the set, but the hole was already too deep. Vasquez kills accounted for Army’s final two points.
Sophomore Megan Lynch led Holy Cross with 18 kills.