Nov. 17, 2009
Center Valley, Pa. -- After winning the Patriot League Volleyball regular-season crown and earning the top seed in the upcoming Championship, Army cleaned up in the major awards and All-League announcements as well by claiming four of the five individual honors and four spots on the All-League team.
Army freshman outside hitter Ariana Mankus became the first Patriot Leaguer to earn Volleyball Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year recognition in the same season, while senior teammate Maureen Bannon claimed the Setter of the Year award for the third time and Alma Kovaci was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the second straight season. The remaining individual honor went to Lehigh sophomore libero Emma Melendez, who was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
The Black Knights led all schools with four players on the All-League team, including Mankus and Bannon as First-Team selections. The four teams in this weekend's Patriot League Tournament made up most of the All-League roster with 12 of the 14 selections. American and Colgate each had a pair of First-Team honorees and three total All-League choices, while Lehigh had a selection on both the First and Second-Team. Bucknell and Holy Cross each had an honoree on the second team to round out the All-League picks.
Mankus has excelled from the moment she stepped on the court to help Army to a 24-5 overall record and a 12-2 Patriot League mark. She leads the Patriot League in kills (386) and kills per set (3.64) while placing sixth in the League in both service aces (34) and hitting percentage (.289). She won five Rookie of the Week awards during the season, and also garnered a Player of the Week honor. Mankus is Army's first Player of the Year since Abby Casciato won the honor in 2005, and the first Rookie of the Year from West Point since Bannon in 2006.
Bannon closes her decorated career at West Point with her third Patriot League Setter of the Year in the four seasons that the award has been presented. She is fourth in Patriot League history with 3,988 career assists entering this weekend's action, and leads the League while ranking 41st in the country with 0.41 aces per set this season. Bannon places second in the Patriot League with 10.27 assists per set, with 955 in her 93 sets played this year. She dominated the Patriot League weekly award selections with four Player of the Week honors. Bannon also becomes just the eighth four-time All-Patriot League selection, as she was named to the second team in 2006 and 2007 and the first team in each of the last two seasons. Prior to Mankus' honors, Bannon was the only Patriot Leaguer to receive two major awards in one season when she was named the Co-Setter of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 2006.
Kovaci has directed Army to an outstanding 74-13 overall record in her three seasons at the helm, with a 37-5 Patriot League record. She led the Black Knights to a win at then No. 19 Pepperdine on Sept. 12, and the team won its first 10 matches in Patriot League action. Army earned sole possession of the regular-season title and will host the Patriot League Championship for the first time since 1994. In addition to this year's marks of 24-5 overall and 12-2 in the Patriot League, Kovaci led the Black Knights to the same records in 2007 and a 26-4 overall mark and 13-1 Patriot League finish in 2008, when the Black Knights tied American for the regular-season crown. Army will go in search of its first Patriot League title since 1994 this weekend.
Melendez helped a resurgent Lehigh program make the 2009 Patriot League Volleyball Tournament as the No. 4 seed. She placed third in the League in digs, recording 414 over 107 sets for an average of 3.87 per set. She is Lehigh's first Defensive Player of the Year since Marta Mielcarz won the honor in 1997, and the first Mountain Hawk to win any major award since Rochelle Healea was named Rookie of the Year in 1999.
Joining Mankus and Bannon as First-Team All-Patriot League selections were American junior OH Magdalena Tekiel and senior MB Claire Recht, Colgate sophomore MB Kaylee Dougherty and junior MB Casey Ritt, and Lehigh sophomore OH Angelika Kopacz.
The Second-Team All-Patriot League selections were Melendez, Army junior MB Amanda Rowell and freshman RS Francine Vazquez, American junior RS Angelina Waterman, Colgate freshman RS Kaleigh Durket, Bucknell junior MB Heidi Kamp and Holy Cross freshman OH Megan Lynch.
Rowell and Vazquez also played a key role in Army's first-place Patriot League finish. Rowell is second in the Patriot League with a .323 hitting percentage, and third with 0.98 blocks per set. Vazquez earned three Rookie of the Week awards and finished the year second on Army's roster with 250 kills.
American's All-Patriot League selections helped the Eagles to an 11-3 Patriot League record that includes a seven-game winning streak entering the weekend. Recht paces the Patriot League with a .338 hitting percentage and 103 blocks on the season. Tekiel ranks fourth in the League with 3.16 kills per set, and just outside the Patriot League top 10 with 0.28 service aces per set. Waterman is third in the League with 3.28 kills per set, and is fifth with 0.32 service aces per set.
Colgate finished the Patriot League season with an 11-3 mark with key contributions from each of its three All-League choices. Dougherty ranks eighth in the Patriot League in hitting percentage (.266) and sixth in blocks per set (0.79). Ritt places seventh in the Patriot League by percentage points over Dougherty with a similar .266 hitting percentage, and also heads to the League Tournament second among all players with 0.98 blocks per set. The 2007 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Ritt earns her third All-League selection in as many seasons, and second straight First-Team honor. Durket capped a strong freshman season by placing fifth in the League in kills per set (3.06) and seventh in service aces per set (0.31)
Kopacz joins Melendez as an All-League selection from Lehigh. The First-Team pick stands sixth in the Patriot League with 3.05 kills per set, second to Bannon with 0.37 service aces per set and seventh with 2.96 digs per set.
Kamp earns the Second-Team nod from Bucknell after finishing the year ninth in the Patriot League in hitting percentage (.265) and fourth in blocks per set (0.96).
Lynch receives the All-League selection in her first season in Worcester. She is second to Mankus with 3.53 kills per set this season, and received a pair of Rookie of the Week honors during the year.
Every All-League honoree with the exception of Bannon and Ritt was selected for the first time.
The Patriot League Volleyball Tournament begins on Saturday from West Point, with No. 4 Lehigh playing at No. 1 Army at 4 p.m. and No. 2 American taking on No. 3 Colgate at 6 p.m. The winners face off for the Patriot League Championship on Sunday at 4 p.m.
The full list of Patriot League Volleyball major award winners and All-League selections follows.
Player of the Year: Ariana Mankus, Army, Fr., OH
Setter of the Year: Maureen Bannon, Army, Sr., S
Defensive Player of the Year: Emma Melendez, Lehigh, So., L
Rookie of the Year: Ariana Mankus, Army, Fr., OH
Coach of the Year: Alma Kovaci, Army
Ariana Mankus, Army, Fr., OH
Maureen Bannon, Army, Sr., S
Magdalena Tekiel, American, Jr., OH
Claire Recht, American, Sr., MB
Kaylee Dougherty, Colgate, So., MB
Casey Ritt, Colgate, Jr., MB
Angelika Kopacz, Lehigh, So., OH
Amanda Rowell, Army, Jr., MB
Francine Vazquez, Army, Fr., RS
Angelina Waterman, American, Jr., RS
Kaleigh Durket, Colgate, Fr., RS
Heidi Kamp, Bucknell, Jr., MB
Megan Lynch, Holy Cross, Fr., OH
Emma Melendez, Lehigh, So., L