WASHINGTON – For the 15th time in its 17 years of membership and the fifth straight time, American University and Bender Arena will play host to the Patriot League Volleyball Tournament this weekend as Navy, Army West Point and Lehigh battle for the league's automatic-qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The top-seeded Eagles (24-7, 15-1) will face No. 4-seed Lehigh (17-12, 9-7) at 2 p.m. in the opening semifinal, while No. 2 Navy (22-7, 12-4) plays third-seeded Army West Point (18-11, 11-5) in the 5 p.m. semifinal.
Semifinal winners will play for the championship at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The Eagles come into their Saturday semifinal with Lehigh on a 16-match winning streak. The only loss AU has suffered in that stretch and in Patriot League action, came during a marathon, four-set match at Navy on Sept. 26.
Outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala picked up her second straight Patriot League Player of the Year award in balloting by the league's head coaches earlier this week. Kazala, a junior from Debica, Poland, is the seventh AU player to have won the award, which has been given to an Eagle 13 times since 2001.
Kristen Largay was selected as the Patriot League Libero of the Year. The sophomore from Paradise Valley, Ariz., is close to becoming only the third Eagle in history to reach 500 digs in a season and the sixth to reach 1,000 digs in her career. She is the second Eagle to earn Libero of the Year, as current senior Hoakalei Dawson won the award in 2015.
Kazala was American's lone representative on the All-Patriot League first team. Junior setter Kennedy Etheridge, sophomore middle blocker Vela McBride and freshman outside Helena Elbaek earned second-team honors, as AU's four all-league honorees topped the conference.
Kazala and Largay were also voted to the Academic All-Patriot League Team.
The Mountain Hawks tied Colgate with a 9-7 record, but claimed the fourth and final playoff spot by virtue of a tiebreaker that went to points scored in the matches between the two teams.
Sophomore Ana Spangenberg leads the Mountain Hawks offensively with a 3.65 kills-per-set average that is third in the league. She was a first team All-PL selection earlier this week. Junior setter Megan Polak is third in the PL in assists, while second team All-PL middle Lauren Bright is fourth in blocks.
American swept the two meetings between the teams, winning 3-0 in Bender and 3-1 at Lehigh.
ARMY WEST POINT PREVIEW
The Black Knights' talented middle blockers in senior Carolyn Bockrath and junior Vanessa Wesley were each first team All-PL selections this week. Bockrath is second in the league with a .393 hitting percentage and is fourth in kills (3.48 per set). Wesley is third in the PL with a .374 hitting percentage.
Senior outside Amber Clay earned second-team honors and is seventh in kills per set (3.13). Army is the only PL school with two hitters averaging three kills per set or better.
Army is 9-3 in its last 12 matches and split a pair of five-setters with Navy this season.
Junior Patricia Mattingly was the Setter of the Year and the Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the Patriot League. She joined senior teammate Tara Dotzauer on the All-PL first team.
The Midshipmen sport a balanced offense, with five different players having at least 190 kills this season. Junior middle Katie Patrick was a second team All-PL pick.
Navy comes into the tournament having won three of its last four and five of its last seven.
TICKETS & BROADCAST INFO
Tickets for the Patriot League Tournament are available online. General admission seats for each day are $8 for adults and $5 for children. Students of all four participating schools will be admitted free with a valid student ID.
The tournament will also be live streamed on WatchStadium.com. The championship match will stream live on the PLN, in addition to being streamed on Twitter by following @WatchStadium. The match will also be available at a variety of Over-The-Air television networks. For a complete list of channels click here.
2017 PATRIOT LEAGUE VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT
At Bender Arena, American University
SEMIFINALS – SATURDAY, NOV. 18
No. 4 Lehigh (17-12, 9-7) at No. 1 American (24-7, 15-1), 2:00
No. 3 Army West Point (18-11, 11-5) vs. No. 2 Navy (22-7, 12-4), 5:00
CHAMPIONSHIP – SUNDAY, NOV. 19
Semifinal winners, 3:00
Live Stats – TBD