Sept. 1, 2011
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- Just as it did with other sports and events up and down the East Coast last weekend, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc upon the opening of the 2011 volleyball regular season for all eight Patriot League squads. The most affected club was Bucknell, which had its three-match slate at the William & Mary Tournament washed out last weekend because of the storm. Many other schools faced either altered schedules or cancellations as a result of the weather. The Bison will start their 2011 season by hosting Fordham, Manhattan and Dartmouth during the Bucknell Tournament.
Patriot League Volleyball Release - 9.1.11
The team that is out to the best start of all League squads so far is Army, which won the Black Knight Invitational last weekend with victories over Hartford, UMKC and Bryant to open the season 3-0. The Black Knights hit the road for the first time this weekend when they visit Stockton, Calif., to compete in a tournament hosted by Pacific.
Lafayette and Lehigh began their respective seasons on the right foot in midweek action. The Leopards took a dramatic five-set victory at St. Francis, N.Y., while the Mountain Hawks won their first match under new head coach Bob Bertucci by sweeping Rider.
Holy Cross split its first two matches at the Beanpot Classic last weekend. After dropping its season-opener to Fairleigh Dickinson, the Crusaders rebounded with a 3-0 win over Central Connecticut. Holy Cross ran its win streak to two matches with an exciting 3-2 victory over Providence Wednesday night in Worcester.
American, Colgate and Navy will look to rebound from tough starts when they get underway in action this weekend. The Raiders dropped their first two during the Colgate Classic against Buffalo and Seton Hall before posting a four-set victory over the Bulls to close out the weekend. American once again hosted an incredible Bender Blue Out event inside Bender Arena last Friday, as more than 2,000 fans packed the stands for the Eagles contest against D.C.-rival George Washington. The Colonials took a 3-1 victory, but American responded with a 3-1 victory over Georgetown the next day in the second match of the D.C. Volleyball Challenge. The Eagles third contest against George Mason was postponed because of Irene. Navy's schedule at the Kristen Dickmann Invitational in Annapolis was also changed around because of the hurricane. The Mids dropped matches to Bowling Green, Iona and Air Force.
Everybody is in action this weekend, beginning with seven matches Friday. American heads north to the Cornell Invitational, Colgate will play three at Yale, Holy Cross travels to the Connecticut Invitational, Lafayette will host three teams during its own invitational and Lehigh is scheduled for three matches in action at James Madison. Navy will begin weekend play with a pair of contests Saturday at the Patriot Invitational hosted by George Mason, and will conclude with one match there Sunday against UNC Greensboro.
Patriot League Weekly Awards
MOLTEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ARIANA MANKUS, ARMY Jr., OH, Lisle, Ill.
Mankus helped the Black Knights open the season 3-0 with wins over Hartford, UMKC and Bryant during the Black Knight Invitational. Mankus posted 53 kills, 30 digs and five blocks. She had two double-doubles, including a 23-kill, 10-dig performance against Bryant. She finished with a .271 hitting percentage.
MOLTEN ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
MARY VACCARO, ARMY Fr., S, Orinda, Calif.
Vaccaro stepped into Army's starting setter role and won the Black Knights Invitational MVP, finishing with 141 assists and 34 digs. She posted two 50-assists matches, finishing with 53 against UMKC and 55 against Bryant. She also had six kills, four service aces and three blocks.
MEGAN LYNCH, HOLY CROSS Jr., OH, Mendham, N.J.
Lynch finished with 28 kills, 22 digs and four service aces as the Crusaders opened the season with a 1-1 weekend. She posted a .282 hitting percentage and 14 kills in a 3-0 Holy Cross win over Central Connecticut.
JULIANA CRUM, AMERICAN So., OH, Hacienda Heights, Calif.
Crum finished with 27 kills and a .312 hitting percentage as American opened the season with a 3-1 loss to George Washington and a 3-1 win over Georgetown. She also had 25 digs and three blocks in the two matches.
Patriot League Notebook
QUICK START INCLUDES WEEKLY AWARDS
Army's fast beginning to the 2011 season also featured a sweep of the Patriot League's Molten Weekly awards. Junior outside hitter Ariana Mankus was tabbed as the the Player of the Week after collecting the 26th and 27th double-doubles of her career during her team's 3-0 run through the Black Knight Invitational. She recorded 11 kills and 12 digs in a 3-0 victory over Hartford, and added 23 kills and 10 digs in Army's 3-1 win over Bryant. She posted a .476 hitting percentage in the latter win. Freshman Mary Vaccaro started all three matches for the Black Knights as the team's setter, and tallied 141 assists for the weekend. Her teammates converted nearly 40 percent of her sets into kills, and she added four aces during the three matches.
BENDER BLUE OUT SETS RECORD AGAIN
American hosted its fifth annual Bender Blue Out Friday night, and a Washington, D.C. volleyball-record crowd of 2,122 fans watched as the Eagles hosted George Washington in the first match of the D.C. Volleyball Challenge inside Bender Arena. The standing-room only crowd eclipsed the record of 2,055 fans set one year ago. Since the annual event began in 2007, the Bender Blue Out has averaged 1,767 fans.
THREE NEW FACES ON THE SIDELINES
It was an unprecedented offseason as three League teams have new head coaches on the sidelines in 2011. Two of them are veterans with incredible track records and mountains of respect within the volleyball community, while the third has the exciting task of taking over a program for the first time. Larry Bock is the new person on the Navy bench, bringing 40 seasons of experience to a program that last made the Patriot League Tournament in 2007. He began the season with an overall record of 1,352-283-4, which includes stints coaching both the men and women's teams at Juniata College. His tenture featured several NCAA Division III Championships. Bob Bertucci, who spent the last 16 years at Temple, was tapped by Lehigh to be its new head coach. In 32 seasons overall, he accumulated a record of 667-383, which included stops at Army, Tennessee and Rutgers-Newark. Making her head coaching debut is Erin Walker, who was named head coach in April after spending last year as an assistant with the Crusaders. The New Hampshire graduate also spent two years on the coaching staff at her alma mater after her four-year playing career for the Wildcats, in which she was named All-America East three times.
DEFENDING CHAMPION AMERICAN DOMINATES PRESEASON POLL
A year after running the table in the Patriot League, winning 29 matches and narrowly falling in five sets to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, American claimed the No. 1 spot in the League's preseason poll just a few days before the start of the regular season. With the maximum 98 points and 14 first-place votes, the Eagles are the overwhelming favorite to repeat as League champions in 2011. American was trailed in the poll by 2009 League champion Army, which captured 83 points. The two remaining first-place votes went to 2010 runner-up Colgate, which finished third in the balloting with 73 points. Bucknell captured fourth with 57 points, followed very closely by Lehigh in fifth with 56 points. The poll was rounded out by Navy in sixth (34 points), Holy Cross in seventh (28) and Lafayette in eighth (19).
ROAD TO THE TITLE
The 2011 Patriot League Tournament is slated for Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 19-20, with the semifinals taking place Saturday and the championship Sunday. The winner earns an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Tournament is hosted by the No. 1 seed, which is the team that finishes with the best regular-season record against League competition. Being the top seed has its perks, as each of the last 11 tournament hosts have held serve to claim the League crown and advance to the NCAA Tournament. It also occurred in 1996 (Colgate) and 1998 (Bucknell). Bucknell hosted and won the League title in 2000 before American ran off eight straight titles from 2001-08 when it hosted the four-team playoff at Bender Arena. Army entertained the field and won in 2009 before the Eagles recaptured the championship one year ago.
APR GRADE IS A-OK
Patriot League schools once again excelled when the NCAA released its most recent Academic Progress Rate in May. Ninety-seven percent of League teams came in at or above the national Division I four-year average score of 970. In addition, over 65 percent of League teams tallied a score of 990 or better. Eighty-two teams from full-member institutions and 73 League-sponsored squads were awarded NCAA Public Recognition Awards for scoring in the top 10 percent of their sport's APR.