All-Patriot League and Major Awards Announced for Volleyball

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Army freshman Mary Vaccaro was named Patriot League Setter of the Year Tuesday.
Army freshman Mary Vaccaro was named Patriot League Setter of the Year Tuesday.

Nov. 15, 2011

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Patriot League Tournament teams dominated the All-League and major awards that were announced Tuesday, with American freshman Sara Rishell becoming the second player in three years to be named both the Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year.

Joining Rishell as major award winners Tuesday were Army freshman Mary Vaccaro as Setter of the Year, Lehigh sophomore Rachel Charles as Libero of the Year and American's Barry Goldberg as Coach of the Year.

Voting was conducted by the League's eight head coaches who could not cast a ballot for themselves or their student-athletes.

American owned a League-best four All-League honorees, with Rishell and sophomore Juliana Crum making the first team and senior Rebecca Heath and freshman Monika Smidova earning second-team accolades.

Army, Colgate and Lehigh tied with three All-Leaguers apiece. All three of the Black Knights' selections were named to the first team in Vaccaro, junior Ariana Mankus and sophomore Megan Wilton. Colgate's lone first-team honoree was sophomore Lindsay Young, while senior Kaylee Dougherty and sophomore Kaylee Fifer were named to the second team. Lehigh junior Taylor Poole earned a first-team nod, while seniors Angelika Kopacz and Jessica Kudirka were earned second-team laurels.

The only team that did not qualify for the Patriot League Tournament to have an All-League selection was Holy Cross. Junior Megan Lynch garnered a place on the second team.

Fourteen of the 15 student-athletes honored either on the All-League team or with a major award Tuesday will be participating in this weekend's Patriot League Tournament.

Rishell becomes the second ever to garner the Player and Rookie of the Year nods in the same season and first since Mankus in 2009. Rishell has been one of the League's top performers all season long, and enters this weekend's tournament tops in the League hitting .323, fourth averaging 3.21 kills per set and fourth with 350 total kills. An outside hitter and middle blocker, Rishell owns two of the best performances this season in terms of attack percentage, hitting .679 in a four-set win over Holy Cross last month and .688 in American's 3-0 sweep of Lehigh Friday. During League play, she finished second with a .385 attack percentage and fifth with 3.16 kills per set. She enters the League Tournament with the League's second-highest total blocks tally of 101. Rishell is the second straight Player of the Year from American and ninth overall, and is the fifth Eagle named Rookie of the Year and first since 2008.

From day one, Vaccaro has been the League's top setter, sitting at the top of the League standings and ranking in the top 20 nationally in assists per set. She leads the League averaging 11.40 assists per set in all matches and 11.06 per frame during League play. Vaccaro was named Rookie of the Week a record eight times this season and boasts two stretches in which she was honored at least three weeks in a row. With 1,220 assists on the season, Vaccaro is on the verge of climbing into the League's single-season top 10 in the category. She's 11 shy of becoming the first student-athlete in eight years to do so. Vaccaro is the fifth Black Knight to capture the Setter of the Year award since its inception in 2006 and the third straight to do so, following Maureen Bannon (2006-07, 09) and Karyn Powell (2010).

Charles was one of several players to post strong seasons for Lehigh to lift it into its first League Tournament since 2009. The sophomore libero and defensive specialist enters the weekend third in the League rankings averaging 4.22 digs per set and finished League play sitting second with 4.19 per frame. Charles is in a four-way tie for the most digs in a match this season by any Patriot Leaguer with 32, which she accomplished in a four-set victory against Princeton in September. Her best showing during League play was a 25-dig performance in Lehigh's four-set loss against Army Sept. 23. Charles also leads the League in total aces (55) and aces per set (0.55). She is the fourth Mountain Hawk to garner the League's top defensive award and first since Emma Melendez was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

Goldberg secured his second consecutive Coach of the Year honor and fourth overall, having also been named to the award in 2001 and again in '06. He guided the Eagles to a 13-1 mark against League teams, and improved his overall League record in 11 seasons to an incredible 147-7. American is enjoying its second straight 20-win season, and has reached that plateau 10 out of 11 years. Overall, Goldberg has won seven Coach of the Year trophies, having collected three from 1990-2000 when American was a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Crum, one of the top rookies in the League a year ago, garnered her first All-League selection with a spot on the first team. An outside hitter, she enters the tournament 10th in the League hitting .259 and is one of six players with at least 300 kills. Heath, a senior outside hitter and American's last Rookie of the Year before Rishell, sits seventh in the League standings hitting .268 in all matches and in the same position after hitting .305 during League play. Smidova, a freshman, was part of a potent 1-2 setting combination for American. She averaged 5.78 assists per set in 102 frames to enter this weekend's action seventh in the League.

Joining Vaccaro on the first team from Army were Mankus and Wilton. Mankus finished League play second with 3.65 kills per set and enters the tournament also second in the League averaging 3.72 kills per frame. Her 398 total kills are second overall, and she enters the weekend sixth in the League in digs-per-set average (3.69). Wilton, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, sits third in the League hitting .300 and is averaging 2.75 kills per set for sixth.

Young, a sophomore outside hitter, was named first-team All-League after finishing the regular season third in the League with 3.35 kills per set and third with 355 total kills. She enters the tournament hitting .219 and is fourth on the Raiders with 204 digs. Dougherty garnered her third straight All-League laurel with a spot on the first team in 2011. She sits third on the team in attack percentage (.248) while averaging 2.35 kills per set and a team-best 62 total blocks on the year. Fifer, a sophomore setter, sits third in the League averaging 9.39 assists per frame and is 14 shy of 1,000 for the season. She's evolved into a versatile threat for the Raiders, collecting 119 kills and 298 digs with a .264 hitting percentage in 105 sets played.

Poole was a first-team selection in 2010 and duplicated that showing this season. A middle blocker, she was a two-time Molten Player of the Week and enters the weekend with the League's second-highest attacking percentage (.318). During League play, she upped that number to a League-best .389, with 102 kills and only 21 errors. Kopacz, a senior outside hitter, was a first-team selection in 2009, and finished the regular season eighth among League players with averaging 2.68 kills per set. Kudirka, a senior setter, currently sits second in the League with 10.18 assists per set and posted an average of 10.64 per frame during 14 League contests. She is 23 away from 1,000 for the season.

Lynch captured her third straight second-team All-League laurel this season. She sits first in total kills (405) and kills per set (3.93) and finished her season 10th in the League averaging 2.89 digs per set. Lynch finished League play with the best kills-per-set average at 3.98 and is one of only two Crusaders in school history with 1,000 kills and 900 digs.

The Patriot League Volleyball Tournament begins with two semifinal matches Saturday at American University's Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. The No. 1 seed Eagles, who are hosting the four-team playoff for the 10th time in 11 years, take on fourth-seeded Colgate at 2 p.m., while second seed Army battles No. 3 Lehigh at 5 p.m. The tournament concludes Sunday with the championship match at 2 p.m. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

2011 All-Patriot League Volleyball Team

First Team
Sara Rishell, American, Fr., OH/MB
Juliana Crum, American, So., OH
Ariana Mankus, Army, Jr., OH
Mary Vaccaro, Army, Fr., S
Megan Wilton, Army, So., MB
Lindsay Young, Colgate, So., OH
Taylor Poole, Lehigh, Jr., MB

Second Team
Rebecca Heath, American, Sr., OH
Monika Smidova, American, S, Fr.
Kaylee Dougherty, Colgate, Sr., MB
Kaylee Fifer, Colgate, So., S
Megan Lynch, Holy Cross, Jr., OH
Angelika Kopacz, Lehigh, Sr., OH
Jessica Kudirka, Lehigh, S, Sr.

Player of the Year Sara Rishell, American, Fr., OH/MB
Rookie of the Year Sara Rishell, American, Fr., OH/MB
Setter of the Year Mary Vaccaro, Army, Fr.
Libero of the Year Rachel Charles, Lehigh, So.
Coach of the Year Barry Goldberg, American