Nov. 19, 2010
Center Valley, Pa. — The 21st edition of the Patriot League volleyball tournament takes place Saturday and Sunday, with the winner claiming the 2010 League title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Patriot League 2010 Volleyball Championship Preview
For the sixth time in the 10 years since joining the Patriot League, American rattled off a perfect 14-0 record against League teams, and the program is hosting the League bracket for the ninth time overall and first since 2008. The Eagles captured a host of awards this week, with four student-athletes earning All-League recognition, three being placed on the inaugural All-Academic team and three individuals securing major awards.
While American dominated the League this season, surrendering only four sets during its perfect 14-0 run, there are three other clubs that earned their way into the tournament all seeking to hoist the title hardware and earn a trip to the NCAAs. Army earned the second seeded with an 11-3 mark in League play, and the defending champions came closest to handing American a loss in a five-setter on Nov. 6 at West Point. The Black Knights feature three major award winners and four All-League honorees as well, and head coach Alma Kovaci is looking to bring Army to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years after the program made its first ever trip last season.
The Eagles, who have tied a League record with 21 straight victories, are not the only hot team heading into the four-team playoff. Third-seeded Colgate, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Ryan Baker, was 4-4 through its first eight League contests. But the Raiders have rattled off six straight victories, including a 3-1 victory last Friday over semifinal opponent Army, heading into the tournament.
Bucknell was the last of the four teams to clinch a tournament berth, but don’t sleep on the Bison. Cindy Opalski’s club was one of the three League squads to provide a challenge to American during the League season, capturing a set during a 3-1 loss in the League opener for both teams on Sept. 24. Led by senior First-Team All-League selection Heidi Kamp, the Bison are looking to pull off the upset in the first of Saturday’s two finals.
The winners of Saturday’s two semifinal bouts will take to the floor at Bender Arena Sunday at 4 p.m. with the 2010 Patriot League title and NCAA Tournament berth on the line.
Patriot League Tournament Preview
SEMIFINALS – SATURDAY – BENDER ARENA, WASHINGTON, D.C.
No. 4 Bucknell Bison (10-16, 8-6 Patriot League) at No. 1 American Eagles (27-2, 14-0 Patriot League) - 4 p.m.
2010 MATCHUP American, 2-0 LAST PL TOURNAMENT MEETING American, 3-0 (25-8, 25-14, 25-17) (11.21.2008) TOURNAMENT HISTORY American, 5-0
AMERICAN After a one-year break, the Eagles are back in the familiar spot as host and prohibitive favorite heading into the 2010 edition of the Patriot League Tournament. Led by a trio of First-Team All-League honorees in Magdalena Tekiel, Cassandra Ricketts and Angelina Waterman, American hosts No. 4 Bucknell in Saturday’s first semifinal at Bender Arena. The Eagles captured both contests between the two teams during the regular season, posting a 3-1 victory in Lewisburg and a 3-0 sweep at home. Saturday’s match is a replay of the semifinals two years ago, when the host Eagles also faced off against the Bison on the 1-4 matchup, taking a 3-0 victory in the process en route to their eighth consecutive title. Tekiel, also the League’s Player of the Year, hit a League -best .354 during the entire season, while Ricketts posted the best hitting percentage during League play (.385). Sophomore Krysta Cicala averaged a League-high 9.70 assists per set and was second with a 9.59 average during American’s 14-0 run through the League schedule. The Eagles are 5-0 all-time when the teams meet in the Patriot League postseason and currently boast a 21-match winning streak, which is tied with the 2001 American team for the League’s best.
BUCKNELL When the Bison hosted American in the League opener in September they lost in four sets, but the team rallied to win six of its next seven contests, all against League teams, to sit 6-2 in the standings. Bucknell has two setters in Rachel Rodriguez (485 assists) and Kat Tauscher (303 assists) can distribute the ball to teammates Heidi Kamp (218 kills, .259) and Ragin Jackson (138 kills, .279). The Bison will need their defense to step up against the Eagles, and that’s where freshman Leylin Marroquin comes in. She posted a team-best 268 digs during the regular season, averaging 2.82 per set. She’ll get help from Rodriguez, who finished second on the squad with 181 digs, while Jackson has tallied a team-best 88 total blocks thus far and Kamp has registered 79. The last time Bucknell met American was in the 2008 semifinals when it lost 3-0 to the host Eagles as the No. 4 seed. The Bison are looking to advance to the championship match for the first time since 2006, when they also lost to American.
SEMIFINALS – SATURDAY – BENDER ARENA, WASHINGTON, D.C.
No. 2 Army Black Knights (18-13, 11-3 Patriot League) vs. No. 3 Colgate Raiders (17-11, 10-4 Patriot League) - 6 p.m.
2010 MATCHUP T, 1-1 LAST PL TOURNAMENT MEETING Colgate, 3-0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-20) (11.21.2008) TOURNAMENT HISTORY Colgate, 5-4
ARMY If Army is to repeat as Patriot League champion, it will have to get past a Colgate squad that is playing its best ball of the season. One of the Raiders’ six straight victories heading into the tournament came at the expense of the Black Knights, a 3-1 win Nov. 12 in Hamilton. Just eight days later, the teams will meet for the third time this season and the 10th in tournament annals, with the Raiders holding a slim 5-4 edge. Senior Francine Vasquez earned First-Team All-League accolades earlier this week and has plenty of help from teammates Karyn Powell (Setter of the Year), Megan Wilton (Rookie of the Year) and Brittany Jensen (Defensive Player of the Year). Last year’s Player and Rookie of the Year, Ariana Mankus, leads the team in total kills and kills per set while hitting on just over 20 percent of her attempts. Jensen leads the team with nearly four digs per set, with the ball usually finding its way to Powell to assist an opportunity for one of the hitters. Wilton, known for her offensive abilities, also leads the team with 89 total blocks.
COLGATE Head coach Ryan Baker has the Raiders brimming with confidence on their current six-match winning streak. Since starting the season 3-5, which included a loss to then-No. 1 Penn State, Colgate is 14-6. At 10-4 in the League, two of its losses came to American, while the others were parts of 1-1 splits with travel partner Bucknell and semifinal opponent Army. In this the 21st Patriot League Tournament, Colgate has a lot of history with the Black Knights. The two programs meet for the 10th time in the League playoff. In the early years of the League, Colgate and Army were traditionally the top two teams, with the Raiders capturing the 1990 title with a four-set win over the Black Knights before Army captured the next two with title-match wins against Colgate. The Raiders are balanced, as evidenced by their three All-League selections, as four student-athletes have at least 200 digs and three have accumulated over 240 kills. Freshman Kaylee Fifer is averaging nearly six assists per frame in setting up teammates Casey Ritt (247 kills, .250), Maureen Colligan (282 kills, 2.66 kps) and Logan Keala (249 kills, 2.31 kps).
CHAMPIONSHIP – BENDER ARENA, WASHINGTON, D.C. – SUNDAY AT 4 P.M.
POTENTIAL MATCHUPS American is a combined 4-0 against Army and Colgate, although its victory at West Point was a nailbiter in five sets in the toughest match the team received during the League schedule. Bucknell finished 1-1 against Colgate, including a five-set victory, and 0-2 against the defending champion Black Knights. Army is 2-2 against its potential championship opponents, while Colgate is 1-3. Should American and Army advance, it would mark the second straight year the two have paired off with the League title on the line. The programs also battled in the championship match in 2001, 2004 and 2005.
Patriot League Tournament Notebook
AFTER A ONE-YEAR LAYOFF, AMERICAN HOSTS AGAIN
American University hosts the 2010 Patriot League Tournament at Bender Arena, and it’s a familiar venue for those who have followed the League over the last decade. The Eagles entertained the four-team playoff for eight straight years from 2001-08 before Army snapped the streak last season. American hopes a new run has started in 2010, as the school is once again hosting the League tournament after it posted a perfect 14-0 mark against League teams and captured the regular season title.
FOLLOW ALONG WITH ALL-ACCESS
If you can’t make it to Washington for the volleyball tournament, you can have access to it from the comfort of your own home. For a monthly fee of $7.95, you can watch the volleyball championship streamed directly to your computer wherever you have access to the internet. Earlier this month All-Access also streamed the League’s field hockey, women’s soccer and men’s soccer championships, making the November subscription one of the best values of the year. Beginning in January, All-Access will stream nearly every League men and women’s basketball contest. Patriot League All-Access features a new multimedia player which debuted in July, along with new video navigation controls and advanced search functions.
LOOKING FOR MORE HARDWARE
American and Army, which finished 1-2 in the final regular season standings, also cleaned up when League awards were announced earlier this week. Both teams had four student-athletes earn All-League honors Tuesday, while American’s Magdalena Tekiel was named Player of the Year and Barry Goldberg earned the third Coach of the Year award of his career. One day later, it was announced that Eagle right-side hitter Cassandra Ricketts was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while teammates Deborah Frantz and Katerina Cinkova joined her on the inaugural All-Academic Team. Army’s Amanda Rowell was also honored with Academic All-Patriot League plaudits, while Brittany Jensen (Defensive Player of the Year), Karyn Powell (Setter of the Year) and Megan Wilton (Rookie of the Year) were Army’s major individual award winners.
ALL-LEAGUERS SHINE FOR TOP FOUR TEAMS
Fourteen student-athletes earned All-League honors on Tuesday, and 12 of them are members of the four teams vying for the Patriot League title this weekend. The 12 are evenly split across the first and second teams. American’s Magdalena Tekiel, Cassandra Ricketts and Angelina Waterman were named to the First Team, while Bianca Richardson earned Second-Team honors. Army sophomore Francine Vasquez was the lone Black Knight on the First Team, while teammates Brittany Jensen, Megan Wilton and Karyn Powell made the Second Team. No. 3 seed Colgate features three All-League selections in Casey Ritt (First Team), Maureen Colligan (Second Team) and Kaylee Dougherty (Second Team), while Bucknell’s Heidi Kamp earned First-Team honors.
THE BEST OF THE BEST ARE HERE
Each of the six major award winners for the 2010 season will be in action at the Patriot League tournament, and all will be recognized prior to their respective semifinal contests on Saturday. Before the first match, the League will present trophies to Player of the Year Magdalena Tekiel, Scholar-Athlete of the Year Cassandra Ricketts and Coach of the Year Barry Goldberg, all from American. Prior to the second semifinal Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Jensen, Setter of the Year Karyn Powell and Rookie of the Year Megan Wilton, all from Army, will be presented with their awards.
The Patriot League Tournament adopted its current four-team format in 1996. From the League’s inception in 1990 through 1995, it was a full-field event featuring eight teams through 1994 and seven in 1995 after Fordham withdrew from the League. Since the four-team playoff was adopted in 1996, the Eagles are hosting for the League-best ninth time in 2010. Bucknell is second having hosted three times (1997-98, 2000), while Colgate (1996), Navy (1999) and Army (2009) entertained the field once.