WEST POINT – Army West Point volleyball came out on top at the 2021 Army Invitational after sweeping Merrimack and Iona on the final day of the tournament.
The Cadets defeated Merrimack 3-0 (25-12, 25-8, 25-14) led by Diana Ethridge with 19 assists and five service aces and Cate Buckingham with nine kills. During the Black Knights’ 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-18) over Iona, Ethridge racked up 39 assists to help the team’s offense record 45 kills on a .350 clip.
Army went to work early going on a 4-0 run supplied by kills from Allanah Cutler and Paige Fixemer. Merrimack worked to battle back, but Cadets kept the moment going another run to take a 18-6 lead. Riley Parchment and Mackenzie Karnig played big roles in Black Knights service recording three and two service aces, respectfully. Kingsley Wallace close the set with a kill to make the final score 25-12. Cutler and Buckingham each recorded three kills while the team recorded a .370 hitting percentage.
The Cadets brought their fire from the first set to the second as the jumped ahead 10-0, highlighted by four services by Ethridge. The Warriors came back, trailing 15-6, but Savannah Bray threw down a kill that ignited 6-0 run for the Black Knights. Etheridge recorded one more service ace to put her at five in the set, 23-7. Bray ended the set with powerful kill to push the Cadets to a 25-8 win. The Black Knights recorded a .389 hitting percentage and eight service aces.
Army claimed the early 8-2 lead, with the help from Buckingham and Cutler on the attacking end. Sayler Butters fired off a service ace later in the set to increase the Cadets’ lead to 16-11 over the Warriors. Jasmine Granted recorded back-to-back kills to add some cushion to the Black Knights’ lead. Kai Nickerson threw down the final kill of the match to lift Army to the 25-14 set win and 3-0 sweep over Merrimack. Buckingham finished the set with six kills while Cutler and Nickerson each had four.
Iona came out swinging, leading 3-0 before Army took control of a 7-5 lead with help from Fixemer. The Black Knights held their lead by capitalizing on errors by the Gaels. Fixemer threw down a kill to rally a 6-0 run, giving Army the 17-8 lead. Savannah Bray added on two more kills to help get the Cadets closer to set point. Errors made by Iona pushed Army to the 25-12 win. Fixemer finished the set with three kills and three service aces.
Set two started off back and forth, but Army caught momentum to take a 6-4 over Iona.
The Gaels chipped away at the Cadets’ lead, 11-8. Fixemer stayed alive at the net recording two kills to increase Army’s lead to 16-11. The Cadets recorded two key blocks to retain service and keep their lead, 22-16. Buckingham lifted Army to the 25-18 with her third kill of the set. The Black Knights finished the set with 14 kills, hitting .407.
Nickerson helped set the Cadets’ offense in motion early in the third set firing off two kills to give Army the 3-1 lead. Her teammates, Bray and Fixemer, joined in each recording kills to increase the lead to 8-6. Iona stayed in the fight, cutting Cadets’ lead to 15-10. Fixemer and Nickerson continued to fire kills for Army, pushing the score to 22-15. The Black Knights took advantage of errors made by Iona to win the set 25-18 and secure the 3-0 match sweep.
“It was an incredible weekend for our team,” said head coach Alma Kovaci Lee. “Our seniors received their well-deserved rings and we were able to play good volleyball. When we step on the court, we get better and more confident. It is great to see the team come together and perform so well. Everyone who played represent the dedication and efforts of every player that works hard all week at practice. Today, we were able to gain some experience and trust each other. Our game, against Iona, was efficient. Diana (Ethridge) had great distribution and connected well with hitters. Cate (Buckingham) was phenomenal this weekend and Allanah (Cutler) was great as well.”
The Black Knights welcome High Point, Sacred Heart and Columbia to Post on Sept. 3-4 for the West Point Invitational at Gillis Field House.