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Alabama Beats Army (Uh, in volleyball)

WEST POINT – In the fifth match of the Black Knights Invitational, Army lost its second match of the day to Alabama, 3-1. With humid conditions in Gillis Field House, each match took a physical and mental toll on players and coaches. While Army came out strong in winning its first set of the match, Alabama one the last three sets to win.

Army's Kelly Horan.

Army’s Kelly Horan.

The Black Knights started off with high intensity and a .444 hitting percentage in the first set. Right side hitter Kerry Horan had 16 kills in the match. Setter Mary Vaccaro also helped Army get ahead each set with 48 assists for the match. Outside hitter Nicole Perri totaled 11 kills and hit for a .400 percentage, while libero D.J. Phee added 15 digs on the night.

“What hurt us was our momentum. We came out quick and strong and then it changed to being slower than we usually play. We are a team that works with momentum so we have to work on that. But there are no excuses,” said head coach Alma Kovaci.

“We tried to keep it off the net so Alabama couldn’t attack, which allowed us to be aggressive. I was very pleased with our high hitting percentage.  It was also nice to see senior Kerry Horan shine and play the way she did. The same can be said about Nicole Perri on the outside; they both really did a good job,” Kovaci continued.

It was obvious in the first set of the match that the intensity was high for the Black Knights. Out of the gate, Horan had a kill assisted by Vaccaro, a sequence that continued throughout the set. While Army and Alabama went point for point, it was the combination of kills from both Horan and Perri, with assists from Vaccaro that secured the 1-0 head start over the Crimson Tide. Horan had eight kills throughout the set and Perri added four.

With a win under their belts, the Black Knights kept it rolling in the beginning of the second set when Jarka served the first ace of the match. Army lost its momentum after scoring its ninth point in which the Crimson Tide pulled further away. The final score of the second set ended in Alabama’s favor, 25-17, and tied the match up 1-1.

In the third set, Army came out swinging with two points thanks to Vaccaro serves. From there, the Black Knights went point for point with Alabama until the seventh point was scored. Efforts from freshman Olivia Fairfield, Horan and Jarka were crucial in earning those points. From there, Army slipped away by letting Crimson Tide’s Sierra Wilson and Krystal Rivers attacked from the front line. After Army’s 13th point, Alabama took over the game for nine straight points, giving the Crimson Tide a 25-14 set three win and a 2-1 lead on the match.

In the final set of the match, humidity in Gillis Field House took its toll, forcing players and officials to towel the court after nearly every point. However, Bell and Perri fought through the heat and stepped up for the Black Knights. Army continued to hold its own, never trailing by more than four points. Army pulled within three, 23-20, late, but Alabama managed to hang on for the 25-21 win and take the match.

The Black Knights are back in action in Gillis Field House tomorrow, Sept. 1, at 1 p.m. against Washington State. The match will be the sixth and final of the 2013 Black Knights Invitational.

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