Nov. 8, 2011
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — The final weekend of regular season play is on the horizon, and while the field of four for the Patriot League Volleyball Tournament was filled out last weekend, there’s still significant pieces of housekeeping that remain unfinished.
Patriot League Volleyball Release - 11.8.11
American’s four-set win over Army Saturday in Washington, D.C., put the Eagles on the brink of hosting the League Tournament for the second year in a row and 10th time in 11 opportunities. Army remains one match back with two to play, but since the Eagles secured the head-to-head tiebreaker with Saturday’s win, all they have to do is earn a split of their weekend slate at home and they will wrap up the No. 1 seed.
While Army’s chances of hosting the four-team tournament took a devastating hit, the Black Knights coincidentally own a similar advantage over Lehigh that American has over them. Army swept the season series from the Mountain Hawks and owns a one-match lead in the standings, meaning the Black Knights also need just a split during the weekend to sew up no worse than the second seed. Lehigh captured a five-set win over visiting Colgate Saturday in Bethlehem, Pa., to hop over the Raiders into third place. Despite the split in matches, Colgate secured the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning at least one set over the weekend and own a 5-3 edge in frames against the Mountain Hawks. That means Lehigh must stay at least one match ahead of Colgate, as a tie would give the Raiders the better seed.
One notable occurance for this week is a changing of the guard, at least for seven days, within the League’s weekly awards. American’s Sara Rishell collected the Molten Rookie of the Week nod, snapping Mary Vaccaro’s streak of four consecutive nods. The Army freshman already set the record for most awards this season with eight and was one shy of tying the mark for consecutive honors.
Two of Friday’s four matches could serve as some kind of preview for potential League Tournament matchups. American welcomes Lehigh to Bender Arena with the Eagles seeking to pay back the Mountain Hawks for a 3-0 loss in Bethlehem, Pa., suffered earlier this season. Meanwhile, Colgate finishes up its regular season starting with Friday night’s match at West Point. Army rallied for a 3-2 win in Hamilton, N.Y., when the teams met for the first time. Friday’s slate also features Lafayette at Navy and Holy Cross hosting Bucknell, with all four matches slated for 7 p.m.
The regular season concludes Saturday, with American hosting Lafayette at 2 p.m., Colgate visiting Holy Cross at 3 p.m., Navy entertaining Lehigh at 4 p.m. and Bucknell going to Army at 4 p.m.
For American, Army, Colgate and Lehigh, the next stop will be the 2011 Patriot League Tournament, which is set to get underway with two semifinal matches Saturday, Nov. 19, from the site of the highest seed. American, Army and Lehigh are mathematically alive to host the four-team tournament, though the Eagles own a distinct advantage in the race.
Patriot League Weekly Awards
MOLTEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TAYLOR POOLE, LEHIGH Jr., MB, Keller, Texas
Poole captures her second Player of the Week honor of the season after hitting .477 in a pair of League wins over the weekend. She logged a career-high 18 kills on 33 attempts with three errors to hit .455 as Lehigh took a 3-2 victory over visiting Colgate Saturday in a critical match that might play into seeding for the League Tournament. She tallied seven kills and just one error on 11 swings in Friday’s sweep of Bucknell. Poole averaged 3.12 kills per set and logged seven digs and five blocks on the weekend, including three in the crucial five-set win over the Raiders. She now leads with a .408 hitting percentage in League play.
MOLTEN ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
SARA RISHELL, AMERICAN Fr., OH/MB, Hagerstown, Md.
Rishell was strong in two performances for American as it swept the weekend’s two matches and secured the critical head-to-head tiebreaker with Army. She opened the weekend with a 13-kill, seven-block showing Friday in the Eagles’ 3-0 win over Holy Cross. Rishell hit .476 in the match and pocketed two aces with three block solos. The next day, she added 15 kills on 28 attempts to hit .250 with three digs, one ace and seven more stops in American’s four-set victory over Army. She totaled 28 kills and an incredible 14 blocks in the two matches and hit .347 for the weekend while averaging 4.00 kills per set. The Eagles are one win away from wrapping up hosting duties for the League Tournament for the second straight year and 10th time in 11 tries.
REBECCA HEATH, AMERICAN Sr., OH, Naperville, Ill.
Heath hit .320 and averaged 3.14 kills and 3.29 digs per set as the Eagles went 2-0 and took over sole possession of first place in the League with two matches to go.
LINDSAY YOUNG, COLGATE So., MB, Odessa, Fla.
Young had a team-high 14 kills in Colgate’s match Saturday at Lehigh. She hit .357 for the week, collecting six kills with just one error in a sweep at Lafayette and had only four errors in Saturday’s five-set loss at Lehigh. She totaled seven digs for the week and had three total blocks against the Mountain Hawks.
ARIANA MANKUS, ARMY Jr., OH, Lisle, Ill.
Mankus led Army in kills in both matches during a 1-1 weekend. She averaged 4.00 kills and 3.00 digs per set and hit .219 as the Black Knights moved to 10-2 in League play. She recorded double-doubles in both matches.
MARY VACCARO, ARMY Fr., S, Orinda, Calif.
Vaccardo averaged 9.14 assists and 1.86 digs per set for the Black Knights, who split the weekend with a win over Navy and a four-set loss at American. Vaccaro finished with 64 assists and logged three block assists.
Patriot League Notebook
JOINING THE PARTY
Colgate and Lehigh needed just one win last weekend to clinch bids to the Patriot League Tournament. It didn’t take long, as both clubs won Friday night to fill out the four-team field. The next day the two teams squared off in a crucial League contest with the Mountain Hawks emerging with a 3-2 win in Bethlehem, Pa., to move one match ahead of the Raiders in the standings with two to go. American and Army are the other two teams in the tournament, and both had clinched already the weekend before. Colgate has qualified for the League Tournament five years in a row, while Lehigh is in for the second time in three years.
AMERICAN TO HOST?
American posted a four-set win over Army Saturday at Bender Arena in the nation’s capital to sweep the season series with the Black Knights and sew up the always important head-to-head tiebreaker. The Eagles lead Army by one match in the standings with just two regular season contests to go. American needs at least a split of its matches this weekend against Lehigh and Lafayette at home to officially clinch the No. 1 seed in the League Tournament and hosting duties for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
A SECOND TIME FOR THIS FOURSOME
American, Army, Colgate and Lehigh make up the Patriot League Tournament for just the second time since the current four-team format was adopted in 1996. It is, however, the second time in the last three years, as the field was also comprised of those four schools in 2009, which coincides with Lehigh’s last tournament qualification.
EAGLES EYE REMATCH WITH MOUNTAIN HAWKS
American had a huge match last weekend, and the Eagles came up big with a 3-1 win over visiting Army to capture the head-to-head tiebreaker and put themselves in great position to wrap up the No. 1 seed for the League Tournament this weekend. American has another big rematch Friday night, when it hosts Lehigh at Bender Arena. The Mountain Hawks handed the Eagles their only League loss, a 3-0 defeat Oct. 15 in Bethlehem, Pa. It snapped American’s eight-match win streak, but the Eagles have rattled off another six straight victories since. Lehigh and American could also match up at some point in the Patriot League Tournament.
VACCARO NEARING TOP 10
Army freshman setter Mary Vaccaro already set the mark for most Molten Rookie of the Week awards this season with eight, and entering Monday she had been named to the accolade four straight times, one shy of the record. American freshman Sara Rishell snapped that streak Monday when she was named Rookie of the Week for the second time this season. Perhaps more important, however, is that Vaccaro is just 67 assists away from cracking the Patriot League’s single-season top 10. She has 1,164 so far and is guaranteed at least three more matches this year. If it happens, Vaccaro would be the first to enter the single-season top 10 in assists since Lehigh’s Allison Jack in 2003.
PATRIOT LEAGUE ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND YOUTUBE
In addition to following all the action in the Patriot League on its official website, fans can get caught up on stories, features and other useful information by finding the League on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The Patriot League’s YouTube channel features over 100 videos, half of which have been produced since the start of the 2011-12 academic year, highlighting many of the League’s fall sports and its student-athletes. Personalities that have been featured throughout the season include Holy Cross junior Megan Lynch and head coaches Alma Kovaci of Army and Bob Bertucci of Lehigh. For the Patriot League's YouTube page, visit http://www.youtube.com/PatriotVideo.
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.