Sept. 20, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After spending the last three weeks on the road, the Navy volleyball team returns home to the Wesley A. Brown Field House this weekend to open up both a four-match homestand and its 2012 Patriot League season. The Mids will play host to Holy Cross Friday (7 p.m.) and Army -- in the Star Match -- Saturday at 8 p.m. Admission is free for all Navy home volleyball matches.
Links to free live statistics from both of Navy's matches this weekend will be available at NavySports.com. Additionally, a video stream of Saturday's match against Army will be offered to Navy All-Access subscribers. A one-month subscription costs $9.95, while a year-long subscription is $79.95. Register or log-in to Navy All-Access at NavySports.com.
Only those fans with a Department of Defense sticker affixed to their vehicle are allowed to drive onto the USNA grounds. All other fans wishing to attend either of the volleyball matches must ride the free shuttle bus to and from the USNA. The shuttle bus on Friday night will originate from and return to the Blue (west) side parking lot at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (550 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Md. 21401). However, due to Saturday afternoon's Navy football game against VMI taking place at the stadium, the shuttle bus that day will instead utilize the parking lot at the Navy Exchange (321 Kinkaid Road, Building No. 329, Annapolis, Md., 21402). While the shuttle bus itself is free on either day, there is a $5 per vehicle charge for parking on Friday.
The Navy volleyball team will be signing team posters immediately after the conclusion of its match Friday against Holy Cross. Saturday, all fans who bring their ticket stub from that afternoon's Navy-VMI football game with them to the volleyball match will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to Fado's Irish Pub.
The Mids posted a 4-8 record during the non-league portion of their season. This includes two matches in which Navy held a 2-0 lead in sets only to lose both contests. As has been usual for the Mids in recent years, they have played a significant number of close sets this season. Of Navy's 46 sets played this fall, 21 of them have been decided by no more than five points. The Mids have posted a 10-11 record in those close sets.
"It seems so long ago since we last played a match at home," said Navy head coach Larry Bock
. "Being at home the next two weeks is nice enough, but add to that this weekend being our first matches in league play and we are really excited. We are anxious to be home again and I am sure the field house will be rocking both nights.
"We have wanted to improve ourselves over the last four weeks of matches to be ready for this weekend. But that doesn't mean the learning and improving stops now that we are starting league play. This weekend will see how we have been able to put into practice what we have learned in our matches thus far this season, but it is by no means the end of our development as a team."
Navy as a team ranks third in the Patriot League in both kills (11.24 kps) and assists (10.50 aps) and stands in fourth place in digs (13.28 dps). The Mids are hitting .163 this fall (fifth place in the league) and allowing foes to hit .210 (also fifth place).
Katie Sylakowski (Fr., Escondido, Calif.) leads all Patriot League players with her attack percentage of .305 this season, while fellow middle hitter Alex Cassel (So., Sandy, Utah) ranks eighth in the league (.249). Navy also has a pair of its players rank among the league leaders in kills as Erin Fortner (Jr., Villa Hills, Ky.) is third (3.03 kps) and Carolyn Ewert (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.) is 10th (2.45 kps). Alex Karika (Fr., Cranberry Township, Pa.) not only ranks second in the league in assists (9.08 aps), she also stands sixth in the league in service aces (0.34 saps). Defensively for Navy, Cassel is the lone Mid to rank among the league's blocking leaders this season with her average of 0.93 blocks per set, while Christy Rapp (Sr., Royal Oak, Mich.) is eighth in digs (3.57 dps).
Holy Cross is still in search of its first win this season. Included among the 13 Holy Cross losses this fall have been five-set defeats to Central Connecticut State and Hartford. Navy posted a five-set win over Hartford and won a three-set match over CCSU.
The Crusaders have compiled a record of 5-10 this season in sets decided by five or fewer points.
Holy Cross ranks fifth in the Patriot League in digs (12.95 dps) and sixth in blocks (1.70 bps). In looking at individuals on the team who are ranked among the league's statistical leaders, Emily Oliver ranks fourth in hitting percentage (.265), Megan Lynch is fifth in kills (2.74 kps), Elizabeth Watters is sixth in digs (4.05 dps), Hannah Grace Stokes is 10th in assists (3.92 aps) and Mary-Kate Short is 10th in blocks (0.79 bps).
The Crusaders finished in fifth place in the Patriot League last season with a league mark of 6-8. Holy Cross, which concluded the 2011 season with a 10-21 record, was selected to place fifth once again in this year's pre-season poll of the league's coaches and sports information contacts. Navy was picked to place seventh in the voting.
Navy and Holy Cross faced each other three times last season. The Mids won a four-set match over the Crusaders when the teams met during the Harvard Invitational, but Holy Cross tallied a pair of three-set victories over Navy during the Patriot League campaign. Eight of the 10 sets played between the teams last season were decided by five or fewer points (Holy Cross was 7-1 in those sets), with seven of the sets determined by no more than three points (Holy Cross was 6-1 in those sets). Additionally, Holy Cross outscored Navy by just 18 points in winning the six sets -- five of which were determined by no more than three points -- played during the two league matches a year ago.
Holy Cross has won six of the last seven matches it has played against Navy, with most of the individual sets within those matches being very close ones. Holy Cross has posted a 13-3 record in sets against Navy that were determined by five or fewer points and a 10-3 record in sets decided by three or fewer points over the last seven matches (24 sets played in all).
"The only matches we can use to get a good gauge for how Holy Cross is are the two matches the teams have played against common opponents," said Bock. "Though the results of the matches were different, both Navy and Holy Cross had comparable set scores against Hartford and Central Connecticut. That, and the fact that Holy Cross beat us twice last year, tells me that Friday's match will be a challenge for us."
Army, which will play at American Friday night, enters the start of Patriot League play with an 8-5 record this season. The eight wins posted by the Black Knights are the most in the Patriot League thus far this fall. Helping Army to its strong start has been a 14-8 record in sets determined by no more than five points. Both the Mids and the Black Knights have defeated The Citadel this season (3-0 win for Army, 3-1 win for Navy) and both have lost to Denver (Army in three sets, Navy in four sets). However, Navy suffered a five-set loss to Air Force while Army won a four-set decision over the Falcons.
Army leads the Patriot League in kills (13.26 kps), assists (12.46 aps) and digs (18.15 dps) and ranks second in opponent hitting percentage (.146). Individually, the tandem of Megan Wilton and Ariana Mankus rank first and second, respectively, in the league in kill average. Wilton is averaging 3.43 kills per set to narrowly edge the 3.24 kills-per-set average posted by Mankus. Additionally, Mary Vaccaro leads the league in assists (10.31 aps), D.J. Phee is pacing the league in digs (5.43 dps) and Francine Vasquez ranks second in service aces (0.53 saps).
The Black Knights were tabbed to place second in the league this season, which also was their placement in the Patriot League during the 2011 campaign (12-2 in the league, 23-8 overall). Army would go on to advance to the championship match of the league tournament where it fell to top-seeded American in four sets.
Army defeated Navy in three sets in both of the matches played between the teams last season. The Black Knights have defeated Navy in six-consecutive Star Matches and in five-straight matches overall.
"We saw Army play when we took part in the Service Academy tournament with them," said Bock. "They are a very good team. But as we worked on throughout the tournaments we have competed in this fall, we have to concern ourselves with the next match on our schedule and this weekend that is Holy Cross first and then, afterward, Army second."