Nov. 17, 2004
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - American University claimed its fourth consecutive Patriot League regular season volleyball crown after posting a perfect 14-0 record in League play for the fourth time since joining the League in 2001. The Eagles will host the Patriot League Volleyball Championship Friday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20.
The Eagles will open the year's tourney against fourth-seeded Navy on Friday at 6 p.m. at AU's Bender Arena. The second semifinal match will pit No. 2 Army against No. 3 Bucknell at 8 p.m. Each of the winners will move on to the Patriot League Championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m., which will be televised by CSTV on tape-delay at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 21.
The Patriot League Tournament Champion will receive the League's automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Tournament. The NCAA bracket will be announced on November 28 between 6:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on ESPNews. The first round will begin on either December 2, 3, 4 or 5, 2004, at campus sites.
No. 1 American (21-5, 14-0 PL) is tops in the League in four major categories, including hitting percentage, assists, kills and winning percentage. On the national scene AU ranks sixth in both aces and hitting percentage. The Eagles will bring a great deal of leadership into this year's tournament, with four of its student-athletes hitting over .350 percent, two above .400. Seniors Courtney Mulford (San Diego, Calif./La Costa Canyon) and Sabrina Vasconcelos (Fortaleza, Brazil/Colegio Christus) are hitting .450 and .429, respectively. Mulford leads the team in assists (965) and aces (42) and has contributed 138 digs and 118 kills. The two-time All-League selection leads the League in assists (10.97 apg) and ranks sixth in service aces (0.48 sapg). Vasconcelos is Eagles' dig specialist with 290, putting her among the League's best with 3.45 dpg.
Middle blockers junior Cutrina Biddulph (Reseda, Calif./Granada Falls) and freshman Chelsa Brooks (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard-Darby) have both been in the spotlight for the Eagles' this season. Biddulph and Brooks are one-two on the League charts for attack percentage, averaging .368 and .308, respectively. Biddulph, a two-time All-Leaguer, has picked up three Baden Player of the Week awards this season. The 2002 PL Rookie of the Year ranks second in blocks (1.06 bpg) and third in kills (4.20 kpg) in the League and has racked up 35 aces. Brooks has two PL Rookie of the Week awards under her belt with 193 kills and 77 blocks on the year.
Adding to the AU attack are senior middle blocker Natacha Cornaz (Lausanne, Switzerland/Gymnase Auguste Piccard) and sophomore right side/outside hitter Elizabeth Maloney (Toronto, Ontario/Richview C.I.). Cornaz, the 2002 tournament Most Valuable Player, ranks among League leaders in kills (2.69 kpg), totaling 191 this season. Maloney joins Mulford on the League's leader board in aces with (0.48 sapg). Each has picked up one Baden Player of the Week honor.
The second-seeded Black Knights (17-8, 12-2 PL) and three-time Patriot League champions will look to win their first title since 1994. Army ranks first in blocks and either second or third in four of the remaining team categories in the League this season and ninth in the nation in aces. Army players to look out for at this year's PL tournament are senior middle hitters Caitlin Machon (Warwick, R.I./Toll Gate), Rachael Travis (Whitewater, Wis./Whitewater) and junior setter Abby Casciato (Lake Worth, Fla./Lake Worth Community).
Machon leads the Black Knights in kills with 370 and has notched 214 digs, 54 blocks and 33 aces. The 2002 first team All-League player stands among League leaders in hitting percentage (.263) and kills (4.07 kpg). Casciato has made her mark in the League and nation this season, ranking second in the PL in service aces (0.63 sapg) and 11th in the NCAA. The 2003 All-League second teamer ranks fourth in the League in assists (9.63 apg). The junior setter moved to fourth all-time on Army's career aces list with 145. Travis has accumulated a team-best 92 blocks and added 206 kills and 25 service aces. In 2004 she put up a League-wide season best attack percentage and number of blocks in a match with an .800 mark against Lehigh on Nov. 5, and nine blocks versus the Mountain Hawks on Oct. 9.
Bucknell (14-12, 8-6 PL) picked up the No. 3 seed in this year's tournament on the last day of the regular season. The Bison were in a three-way tied for the last two remaining spots up until its last League match of 2004 and edged out Navy for the third seed on tie-breakers. BU currently ranks 29th in the nation in aces, producing 2.02 per game.
Leadership will be provided by senior Jackie Leahy (Plainview, N.Y./Bethpage) and junior Jessica Le (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion) as BU enters its fifth-straight PL tournament, looking to win its first crown since 2000. Leahy is tops for the Bison in kills with 377 and has 233 digs. The veteran outside hitter ranks among the League's best in hitting percentage (.219), kills (4.05 kpg) and digs (2.51 dpg). The 2003 PL first team selection has posted 30 kills twice in her career, both times coming this season, and is third on BU's all-time kills list with 1,181. Le is one of only two Patriot League players to post over 1,000 assists this season, leading the Bison with 1,038. Le ranks second in the League in helpers with 10.48 apg and 10th in aces, coming up with 0.40 sapg.
Carolyn Dougherty (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) has also been a key to the Bison's success, leading the team in digs with 387 on the year. Dougherty has had the second best showing in the League in digs, producing 4.12 per outing. The senior defensive specialist registered a League-high 28 digs in a three-game match on Sept. 18 against the Ivy's Cornell. Freshman Jenna Henderson (Elk Grove, Calif./Laguna Creek) will look to contribute in her first-ever League championship, having racked up 219 kills, 182 digs and 31 aces in her rookie season thus far. Henderson picked up three PL Rookie of the Week awards this year.
Navy (21-8, 8-6 PL) enters the championship as this year's No. 4 seed. The Mids' spot in the postseason also came down to the last League match of the year, securing their place by defeating Lafayette and Lehigh during the final weekend. Navy has held its opponents to a .151 hitting percentage, best average in the League overall. Navy is not only tops in the League in aces, but ranks first nationally in that category (2.63 sapg).
The Mids have seen great play from a range of student-athletes this season, highlighted by senior Ashley Van Hartesvelt (Breckenridge, Colo./Fountain Valley) and junior Ashley Musser (Industry, Pa./Western Beaver). Van Hartesvelt, a three-time PL Player of the Week in 2004, paces the Mids in kills with 445 and digs inking 264 this season. She also contributed 57 of Navy's 268 aces this year. The 2001 Co-Rookie of the Year ranks second in the League in kills (4.45 kpg), fourth in service aces (0.57 sapg) and hitting percentage (.290). The senior outside hitter moved to sixth all-time in the League in kills (1,452) and seventh in aces (170). Musser is currently eighth in the NCAA in aces with (0.69 sapg), while Van Hartesvelt ranks 22nd (0.57). Musser is the League's best in that category and ranks third in assists with 10.46 apg and joins BU's Leahy as the other PL student-athlete this season to record over a grand in helpers with 1,004.
Navy will also look for major contributions from its youth in sophomore Beth McArthur (Roseville, Minn./Concordia Academy) and freshman Diane Sheldon (Colorado Springs, Colo./Christian). McArthur posted a team second-best 231 digs and 203 kills. Sheldon ranks among League leaders in hitting percentage (.220) and kills (2.58 kpg).