Patriot League Volleyball Release - 9.14.10

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Colgate's Kaylee Fifer won the first Patriot League Weekly Award of her collegiate career.
Colgate's Kaylee Fifer won the first Patriot League Weekly Award of her collegiate career.

Sept. 14, 2010

Center Valley, Pa. — American continued its fast start to the 2010 campaign. Following a 1-1 weekend, the Eagles are 7-2, out to their best start since 2001, when they finished 26-4, captured their first League title and went to the NCAA Tournament.

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Colgate logged a 2-2 weekend at the Niagara/Canisius Invitational, including two five-set victories on Saturday, improving to 4-0 in matches that go the distance.

Lehigh and Army were the other League teams to earn two victories last week.

Patriot League Player of the Week

Ariana Mankus, Army So., OH, Lisle, Ill.
Mankus averaged 3.57 kills and 2.79 digs per set as the Black Knights went 2-2 on the week. Her best performance was a 20-kill, 12-dig, .405 hitting double-double performance in Army’s 3-1 victory over UNC Wilmington at the Butler Invitational. It was her fourth double-double and second 20-kill effort of the year.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week

Kaylee Fifer, Colgate Fr., S, Lantana, Texas
Fifer tallied 96 assists as the Raiders went 2-2 during the Niagara/Canisius Invitational last weekend. After posting 34 helpers in losses to Canisius and Indiana, she tallied a career-high 37 and 25 against Robert Morris and Niagara, respectively, in a pair of 3-2 wins. She averaged six assists and 1.81 digs per contest. Her 12 digs against the Purple Eagles gave her a double-double along with her 25 assists in the come-from-behind 3-2 win.

Honorable Mentions

Megan Lynch, Holy Cross So., OH, Mendham, N.J.
Lynch tallied three double-doubles on the week, including a pair of 21-kill performances. She earned All-Tournament Team honors at the Bryant Invitational, where the Crusaders went 1-2, including a five-set win over Boston College.

Erin Fortner, Navy Fr., S/RSH, Villa Hills, Ky.
Fortner earned All-Tournament Team honors for the second straight week while being one of the Mids’ most versatile performers at the Bryant Invitational. She posted a double-double (10k, 11a) against Manhattan. Against Boston College, she logged 22 assists while narrowly missing a triple-double (eight kills, nine digs).

Patriot League Notebook

It might be crazy to think about, but the first leg of non-League action will begin to conclude this weekend as the stretch of in-season tournaments comes to a close. The first set of League matches will begin the weekend of Friday-Saturday, Sept. 24-25. Army and American occupied the top two spots in the League’s preseason poll, and the defending champions will open their League slate at home against Lehigh and Lafayette. Meanwhile, American’s chase for the title will begin on the road with matches at Bucknell and Colgate.

If a Patriot League team goes to five sets in match, don’t be surprised if it comes out victorious. The eight League squads have combined for a 10-5 mark in matches that go the distance, with Colgate leading the way with a 4-0 record. American (1-0), Bucknell (1-0), Holy Cross (2-2), Lafayette (1-0) and Lehigh (1-0) account for the rest of the wins.

After capturing its third overall League title and making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament last year, Army was selected to repeat as Patriot League volleyball champions in 2010, it was determined in a vote by the League’s head coaches and sports information directors who could not vote for their own teams. The Black Knights captured 92 points and nine first-place votes to narrowly claim the poll’s top spot. American, winners of eight consecutive Patriot League titles from 2001-08, finished second in the poll with 90 points and the seven remaining first-place votes. Colgate captured third with 74 points, followed by Lehigh, which garnered 62 points. Bucknell (49), Lafayette (29), Navy (28) and Holy Cross (24) rounded out the poll, which mirrored the final regular season standings from 2009.

For the first time in eight years, the Patriot League has a different defending champion. Since entering the League in 2001, American had captured eight consecutive titles. The streak ended last year when Army defeated the Eagles 3-0 in the finals of the Patriot League Tournament at West Point, N.Y.

American sophomore Krysta Cicala had a strong freshman campaign where she led the Patriot League with 1,145 total assists and 10.41 assists per set, firmly etching her name as one of the League’s leading up-and-coming setters. The League has featured several talented student-athletes at that position, especially in recent history. In addition to Maureen Bannon’s 4,101 career assists from 2006-09, Colgate’s Meghan Fanta finished her four-year career with 3,945 during the same span, which is sixth all-time. Additionally, American’s Christina Nash (3,949 - fifth all-time), Lafayette’s Megan Carter (3,599 - ninth) and Bucknell’s Shannon Pitsch (3,597 - 10th) all finished in the League’s all-time top 10 in assists while playing from 2005-08.

Twelve of the 14 student-athletes who earned All-Patriot League honors last season were underclassmen. Only Maureen Bannon of Army and American’s Claire Recht were seniors honored with All-League laurels, with both making the First Team. Of the 10 of 12 returning for 2010, Army (Ariana Mankus, Amanda Rowell and Francine Vasquez) welcomes back three, Colgate (Kaylee Dougherty and Casey Ritt) and American (Magdalena Tekiel and Angelina Waterman) return two, while Lehigh (Angelika Kopacz), Bucknell (Heidi Kamp) and Holy Cross (Megan Lynch) each return one.

If Holy Cross is to continue on the upswing under third-year head coach Marritt Cafarchia, sophomore Megan Lynch will be a big part of it. Last season, she became the first Crusader freshman to earn All-Patriot League accolades when she was named to the Second Team. She finished second in the League behind Army’s Ariana Mankus with 371 kills and 3.53 kills per set.

One major reason for Colgate’s 11-3 mark in League play in 2009 was defense. Casey Ritt finished third in the League with 104 total blocks and second with 0.99 blocks per set en route to First-Team All-Patriot League laurels, while Devon Applegate’s 426 total digs and 3.98 digs per set were second on the League list. Both student-athletes return for their senior seasons in 2010 for head coach Ryan Baker.

Team Notebooks

AMERICAN The Eagles went 1-1 at the Oregon Classic, dropping a 3-0 decision to the 19th-ranked host Ducks and following it up with a 3-0 victory over Siena. American is finished with regular season tournaments, instead focusing on one-game non-League battles before the League slate begins Sept. 24. As a team, the Eagles continue to lead the League in several categories, including hitting percentage (.284), opponents’ hitting percentage (.158), assists per set (12.86), kills per set (13.66), blocks per set (2.16) and service aces per set (2.00).

ARMY The Black Knights are 4-7 in 2010 after a 2-2 week, with a 1-2 mark at the Butler Invitational over the weekend. Ariana Mankus logged 20 kills for Army in its only victory of the weekend, a 3-1 decision over UNC Wilmington. Mankus is fifth in the League with 3.34 kills per set, while Karyn Powell is second with 8.59 assists per frame. The West Point Challenge is next for Army.

BUCKNELL The Bison went 1-2 during the weekend’s Niagara/Canisius Invitational, with their victory coming against one of the hosts. Ragin Jackson earned All-Tournament Team honors, thanks in part to her 14-kill performance in the team’s 3-1 win over Canisius, while Heidi Kamp added 13. Jackson is now fourth in the League with a .291 hitting percentage. Bucknell closes out its non-League slate at the Columbia Invitational this weekend.

COLGATE The Raiders entered last weekend with a .500 record and exited it also at .500 after a 2-2 weekend at the Niagara/Canisius Invitational. After starting the weekend with two losses on Friday, Colgate rebounded with a pair of thrilling five-set victories on Saturday. Senior captain Casey Ritt was a key factor in the Raiders’ 3-2 win over Niagara, logging 15 kills and just three errors on 40 attack attempts (.300). Freshman Kaylee Fifer earned Rookie of the Week honors with 96 assists over the four matches, including a weekend-best 37 in the 3-2 win over Robert Morris. The Raiders are a perfect 4-0 in five-set matches. The Raiders host the Colgate Invitational this weekend.

HOLY CROSS The Crusaders are 4-8 on the season after a 1-3 week and are one shy of the five they accumulated all of last year. Megan Lynch posted three double-doubles during the week, including a pair of 21-kill performances. The Crusaders logged their second win over Boston College this season with a five-set victory during the Bryant Invitational. The two teams will square off again this weekend when Holy Cross travels to the Brown Invitational.

LAFAYETTE Kayly Elmer was named to the Columbia Classic All-Tournament Team after averaging 2.70 kills and 1.40 digs per set in 10 frames at the New York City event. Elmer leads the Leopards this season with 3.64 kills per set and has also chipped in with an even 2.00 digs per frame. Lafayette hosts its second non-conference tournament this coming weekend as Delaware State, La Salle and Quinnipiac visit Kirby Sports Center. Action begins at 3 p.m. on Friday and resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

LEHIGH It was a successful 2-1 weekend for the Mountain Hawks at the JMU Tournament in Harrisonburg, Va. Lehigh defeated Delaware State and Loyold (Md.) while suffering a loss to host James Madison. Freshman libero Rachel Charles posted 69 digs in 13 sets during the course of the week, including 24 in the team’s 3-1 victory over Delaware State. She has a League-best 185 digs and 4.62 digs per set. Freshman teammate Courtney McCutchan is sixth with 3.35 digs per frame. The Mountain Hawks host St. Peter’s on Wednesday and then have nine days off until opening the League schedule Sept. 24 at defending champion Army.

NAVY It was a tough weekend for the Midshipmen, who went 0-3 at the Bryant Invitational with losses to the host Bulldogs, Manhattan and Boston College. Junior Holly Berger averaged nearly 20 digs per match over the course of the tournament, capturing 57 in the three contests. She netted 22 against the Eagles, which was her career-best in five-set matches. Freshman Erin Fortner had 10 kills and 11 assists against Manhattan and narrowly missed a triple double against Boston College. She finished with 22 assists, eight kills and nine digs. Navy visits Morgan State Tuesday evening, then hosts the Kristen Dickmann Memorial Tournament this weekend with Hartford, Howard and Maryland Eastern Shore traveling to Annapolis.