CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- American won three matches and surrendered just one set last week to improve to 6-0, while Lafayette and Lehigh were also perfect over the weekend to move to 5-1. Bucknell and Colgate are both 4-2, giving the Patriot League five teams over the .500 mark with two others (Holy Cross and Navy) one match under.
PATRIOT LEAGUE QUICK HITS
Five teams have midweek matches before another busy weekend awaits on the horizon. One match each on Tuesday and Wednesday will air on the Patriot League Network. League teams are 33-22 in non-League matches so far after going 42-68 last season. The upcoming weekend is the last full one before League play gets underway. American junior Kelly McCaddin was named Sacred Heart Invitational Tournament MVP en route to her Molten Player of the Week honor from the League. The Eagles are out to their best start since beginning 8-0 in 1992. Lehigh senior L Rachel Charles overtook the program lead for career digs last weekend with 21 versus Wright State. She now has 1,372 for her career, placing her 33 away from entering the League's all-time top 10. Lafayette is 5-1 for the third time in the last five seasons. Sophomore OH Brianne Giangiobbe leads the Leopards with a .481 hitting percentage. Lehigh's 5-1 start is its best since 1995. Army freshman OH Olivia Fairfield hit .349 last week, including two matches at .500 or better with at least 12 kills. Bucknell rookie MB Erika Eastley leads the Bison hitting .429 with 35 total blocks. Only four Bison recorded more than 35 blocks a year ago. Colgate senior S Kaylee Fifer came eight assists shy of the school record for a five-set match with 63 in Friday's 3-2 win over Seton Hall. Army senior L D.J. Phee has moved up to fifth all-time in League history in digs with 1,484. The Raiders are 2-0 against the BIG EAST this season. Holy Cross rookie Emily Popp's 31 digs Friday at Harvard were the most for a Crusader since Angela Chisholm had 33 versus Hartford on Sept. 7, 2010. Loyola freshman Micah Duzey picked up 44 digs in three matches in her first full weekend as the team's libero. She averaged 4.00 per set. Loyola senior MB Jac Bullock was named to the Radisson Cross Keys Greyhound Challenge All-Tournament Team after hitting .355 and averaging 3.36 kills and 1.09 blocks per set. Navy sophomore Alex Karika picked up her 1,000th career assist last week. Her 1,095 rank her 10th in academy history overall and sixth in the rally scoring era.
Patriot League Notebook
LOYOLA UPS NUMBER TO NINE Before Loyola Maryland's official entry on July 1, it had been over a decade since the Patriot League had added a volleyball member. American had been the most recent addition in 2001, and since then the Eagles have captured 10 of 12 titles. The Greyhounds are looking for a similar string of success over the next dozen years. Third-year head coach Jake Lawrence guides a roster led by six seniors, and Loyola is hoping that leadership translates into a shot at contending for a League crown in its first season.
EAGLES PERCHED With 119 points and eight first-place votes, American was chosen as the preseason favorite in the Patriot League in voting conducted by its head coaches and sports information directors who could not cast a ballot for their own schools or student-athletes. The Eagles were a set away from claiming their 11th League championship in 12 seasons, but host Colgate rallied for a thrilling five-set victory to send American home disappointed. Army claimed the poll's second position with 112 points and five first-place votes, while the defending champion Raiders were third with 111 points and the last five first-place ballots. Lehigh (78 points), Navy (76), Loyola (52), Bucknell (50), Holy Cross (28) and Lafayette (22) rounded out the poll.
COLGATE TRIES FOR REPEAT American's dominance since 2001 has made it difficult for other teams to win one League crown, let alone two. But that's exactly what Colgate will try to do after claiming its first Patriot League title since 1999. It was the fifth crown for the Raiders, who also captured the trophy in 1990, 1995 and 1996. In fact, Colgate joins American and Army as the only programs to win consecutive championships. Army did it in 1991-92, while American won eight straight from 2001-08 and two more in 2010-11.
HEAVY ON EXPERIENCE Army senior OH Margaux Jarka was tabbed the preseason Player of the Year by the head coaches and sports information directors, and was one of two Black Knights to make the squad. Along with junior S Mary Vaccaro, the pair combines for a potent 1-2 combination that also features senior L D.J. Phee leading Army's defense. Seniors Kaylee Fifer (S) and Lindsay Young (OH) represent Colgate, while Lehigh placed seniors Rachel Charles (L) and Amanda Clark (MB). Navy senior OH Erin Fortner rounded out the seven-member preseason All-League team, of which Vaccaro is the only underclassman.
WATCH FREE ON THE PATRIOT LEAGUE NETWORK 2013-14 is the first of a multi-year agreement between the Patriot League and Campus Insiders who have teamed up to create the Patriot League Network, a streaming platform that will enable fans to watch League regular season and championship events for free. Currently more than 40 volleyball matches are tentatively scheduled to stream on the Network, both League and non-League, including the Patriot League Tournament.
INTRODUCING THE GREYHOUNDS Jake Lawrence is in his third season as the head coach at Loyola Maryland, which comes to the Patriot League from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Greyhounds' first season was 1990, coincidentally the first season of Patriot League volleyball, and their first conference crown came in 1991. Loyola repeated in `92, but has been held without a trophy since. Key players include a pair of seniors in MB Jac Bullock and OH Faye Lukas. Bullock led the MAAC in hitting (.337) and earned second-team all-conference honors, while Lukas averaged 3.61 kills per set.
NCAA RECOGNIZES LEAGUE AGAIN The Patriot League was once again a big winner when the NCAA announced its latest set of Academic Performance Program Public Recognition Awards and Academic Progress Rate data in June. Volleyball teams from Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh were three of the 71 total League teams cited for finishing in the top 10 percent of their sport in the most recent multi-year APR data, while six of eight schools from before the July 1 expansion boasted an APR of 985 or better. League newcomer Loyola fits right in with an APR of 986 for the 2011-12 academic year.
Patriot League Weekly Awards (9.2-9.8)
MOLTEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK KELLY McCADDIN, AMERICANJr., MB/RS, West Caldwell, N.J. McCaddin was named the MVP of the Sacred Heart Invitational Tournament with three stellar outings to help keep American unbeaten this season. Her best match of the weekend came Saturday when she logged 14 kills, six total blocks and hit .571 in a four-set win over Manhattan. In the Eagles' second match of the day, a 3-0 sweep of Maryland-Eastern Shore, McCaddin drilled 11 more kills with five blocks and hit .409. For the week McCaddin averaged 3.00 kills and 1.30 blocks per set, and tallied 30 total kills with just five errors on 51 swings to hit .490.
MOLTEN ROOKIE OF THE WEEK SAMANTHA VOLK, LAFAYETTEFr., S, Houston, Texas A big reason for Lafayette's 5-1 start is the freshman Volk, who logged 85 assists in three sweep victories for the Leopards over the weekend. After notching 15 Friday against Wright State, the rookie tallied 33 against Fairleigh Dickinson and 37 more versus St. Peter's to finish with a 9.44 assist-per-set average. Volk also contributed in other ways on the floor, with nine digs, three aces and three block assists against the Knights. In all Volk finished with 13 digs and four block assists to go with five kills for the Leopards.
HONORABLE MENTIONS MARGAUX JARKA, ARMY Sr., OH, Rolling Prairie, Ind. Averaged 3.33 kills and 4.07 digs per set during Army's 2-2 week. Notched three double-doubles on the week, including a 15-kill, 26-dig performance against Eastern Michigan.
KAYLEE FIFER, COLGATESr., S, Lantana, Texas Notched an incredible 63 assists in Friday's five-set win over Seton Hall, the Raiders' second triumph over a BIG EAST team this season. Averaged 9.45 assists and 2.73 digs per set at the Yale Invitational.
NATALIE WELSCH, HOLY CROSSFr., RS, Eden Prairie, Minn. Named to the Harvard Invitational All-Tournament Team after hitting .321 with 3.38 kills per set during a 1-1 showing for the Crusaders.
BRIANNE GIANGIOBBE, LAFAYETTESo., OH, Bethlehem, Pa. Led Lafayette with a .481 hitting percentage with 3.22 kills and 1.00 blocks per set during the Leopards' 3-0 weekend at the Lafayette College Tournament. Notched 29 kills with only three errors on 54 chances as Lafayette swept all three matches.
RACHEL CHARLES, LEHIGHSr., L, Farmington Hills, Mich. Averaged 5.00 digs and 1.60 assists per set while notching five aces in three wins for Lehigh at the Lafayette College Tournament. Lehigh's 5-1 start is its best since 1995.
JAC BULLOCK, LOYOLA MARYLANDSr., MB, Aubrey, Texas Named to the Radisson Cross Keys Greyhound Challenge All-Tournament Team after hitting .355 with 3.36 kills per set. Struck 16 kills and hit .520 in Friday's sweep of La Salle, and finished the weekend with 12 total blocks (two solo).
ERIN FORTNER, NAVYSr., Opp/OH, Villa Hills, Ky. Averaged 3.30 kills and 2.00 digs per set as Navy split four matches at the Mountaineer Invite hosted by West Virginia.