Match #1 -- Springfield 3, Hunter 0 (25-13, 26-24, 25-7)
With the win, Springfield ups its record to 32-5, and has won 30 of its last 31 matches. Hunter ends it season at 26-9. It was the second victory of the year for Springfield over Hunter. The other was also by a 3-0 score on Feb. 18, by set scores of 25-18, 25-19, 25-18.
The Pride will be one of two schools to have a chance of making history tomorrow by winning the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship.
In today's match, Matthews, a junior opposite from Freehold, N.J., led the Pride with those 16 kills. He had but two errors in 25 swings and had a .560 hitting percentage. The only other SC player who accumulated double digits in kills was junior outside hitter Mike Pelletier (Burnt Hills, N.Y.) with 11. Pelletier hit .526. Sophomore middle blocker Jimmy O'Leary (Reading, Pa.) also had four kills in five swings and hit .800 as a result.
As a team, SC hit .478 and had 13.0 blocks. A trio led the Pride with five digs apiece. They were freshman setter Keaton Pieper (Kettering, Ohio), freshman outside hitter Angel Perez (Naranjito, Puerto Rico), and sophomore libero Nick Ferry (Valencia, Calif.).
For Hunter, senior outside hitter Christopher Newcomb (Waimea, Hawaii) topped his squad with 11 kills. Unfortunately, he also had 13 errors, and thus hit -0.65. Junior Eric Lodde (Brooklyn, N.Y.) had a match-high seven digs.
The first set started out as a back and forth battle, with Hunter grabbing an early 4-3 lead after a kill from junior middle blocker John Gemegah (Jackson Heights, N.Y.). From there, top-seeded Springfield went on a 7-2 run that featured two kills from Pelletier, and one from O’Leary that led to Hunter’s first timeout.
After a hitting error at 9-6, the Pride was flawless on the attack for the remainder of the set. The Hawks battled back to within two, as Newcomb’s kill made it 11-9 Pride, but that was the closest they would get. Springfield ended game one on a 14-4 spurt to close out the set, 25-13. Pieper kept feeding Matthews to the tune of eight kills and a .538 hitting percentage, while Hunter hit -.133 as a team. The Hawks were plagued by eight attack errors in the game.
Springfield started the second set right where it left off the first, jumping out to a 6-2 advantage behind two aces and two Matthews' kills. Hunter called time to talk things over and promptly got back into the game. Three straight Newcomb kills brought the Hawks within one at 12-11 and forced the Pride to call for time. The teams traded the next few points, leading to a Jerin Kallickal (Kerala, India) kill to knot the score at 16. From there, Hunter seemed to gain control of the set, edging ahead 19-18 after a Greg Falcone attack error, and extending the lead to 23-20 after another Pride miscue. With the set slipping away, Pieper went back to the hot hand, setting up Matthews for a left-handed spike to stop the Hawks’ momentum. Matthews then teamed up with O’Leary for a big block, and the score was suddenly 23-22 Hunter. Kallickal was set up for another attack, but his attempt went long and the Pride pulled even at 23-23.
After trading points, Matthews put the hosts ahead 25-24 with game two on the line. First team All-American Falcone (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) finished off the comeback, finding the middle of the Hunter defense with his second kill of the match, to give the Pride the momentum and a 2-0 lead. It was a huge comeback for Springfield, as the Pride overcame a nine-kill set from Newcomb, who recovered nicely after a slow start to post a .727 hitting percentage in game two. As a team, Hunter hit .440 in game two, but Springfield prevailed behind 16 kills and a .500 hitting percentage of its own.
With the Championship game in its sights, the Pride continued its strong play into set three. Hunter was forced to burn two timeouts early on after five attack errors in nine swings left them down 7-0 and searching for a momentum changer. The Hawks were able to get on the board and pull within six at 8-2, but that would be the closest they could get for the third set. Consecutive kills by Pieper and Pelletier put an end to any charge Hunter could make. Up 24-7 and with the home crowd of more than 1500 on its feet, junior setter Mike Becker (Lancaster, Pa.) came into serve for Springfield. Becker smoked an ace into the middle of the Hunter side and sent the Pride onto the Championship game.
Pieper contributed with 33 assists and five assisted blocks.
Sophomore setter Stanley Martinez (Bayside, N.Y.) contributed 18 assists for Hunter.
Match #2 -- Carthage 3, UC-Santa Cruz 1 (25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18)
In the second semifinal of the night, Carthage broke out to a 2-0 advantage before winning by a 3-1 set advantage. Set scores were 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18.
With the win, Carthage upped its record to 29-5, while UC-Santa Cruz ended its season with a 17-7 record.
It was the fourth time these two teams have met. with the final tally each team wining twice. On Mar. 3, Santa Cruz won 3-1. On Mar. 31, Carthage was victorious, 3-1. On Apr. 14, Santa Cruz won by a 3-0 margin.
Santa Cruz was seeded second in this championship, while Carthage is seeded third.
Carthage hit .326 as a team in this four-set win, while the Banana Slugs hit .250.
Senior outside hitter Randy Hansen (Oak Lawn, Ill.) led the Redmen with 17 kills. He also had six digs and two blocks, and hit .308. Sophomore Pat Barry (Skokie, Ill.) followed with 12 kills and had five digs. Three others just missed in double-digit kills. They were senior middle blocker Matt Yanz (Bolingbrook, Ill.) with nine, senior middle blocker Tyler Frings (Huburtus, Wisc.) with eight, and sophomore outside hitter Jim Schultz (Salem, Wisc.) with eight. Sophomore setter Connor Wexter (New Lenox, Ill.) ended with 47 set assists.
As for UC-Santa Cruz, junior outside hitter Salvatore La Cavera (Huntington Beach, Calif.) topped his squad with a match-high 21 kills. He also had four digs. The only other Banana Slug in double-digit kills was senior outside hitter Jake Deitrich (Saugus, Calif.) with 16. He also had three blocks, and hit a team-high .452. Senior setter Paul Leon (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) finished the night with 51 set assists.
In the first set, the Red Men raced out of the gate to a 3-0 lead. Santa Cruz settled down after that and went on a run of its own to tie the game at 6-6 behind a three man block of Dietrich, Leon, and senior middle blocker Thomas Davidson (Sunnyvale, Calif.). The game continued back and forth from that point forward. Neither team could extend a lead past two points. Wexter set up Schultz for a kill to give Carthage a 15-13 advantage at the media timeout, but Santa Cruz came out after the break and got consecutive kills from Dietrich to pull even at 15. The two continued to trade points to a score of 22-all late in the first. Wexter set up Barry for a spike and then a Dietrich attack error brought Carthage one point from the first set at 24-22. After a quick Banana Slug timeout, Barry put the game away to give the Red Men a 25-23 first set victory.
The second set started off similar to the first, with neither squad taking control. Carthage held a slim 9-8 lead before three straight points put the Red Men up 12-8 and forced a Santa Cruz timeout. Hansen kept things going for Carthage out of the break, striking a Wexter set for a five-point advantage. Another Barry kill helped the Red Men push the lead all the way to eight at 22-14 before Santa Cruz made one last charge in the set. Back to back Dietrich strikes moved the scoreboard to 22-18 and it was Carthage’s turn to call a timeout. The Banana Slugs got to within three, but ultimately fell 25-20 in game two.
In the do-or-die third set, UC Santa Cruz came out with a fury. The Slugs shot out to a 9-2 advantage behind three kills from La Cavera. Carthage had to play catch-up the entire set, and never got within three. After a strong set overall, La Cavera capped off the Cruz victory with a kill from Leon, pulling the second-seeded Slugs within a game at 2-1.
Santa Cruz started the fourth set right where it left off in the third. Tied 5-5 early on, Dietrich and La Cavera contributed kills to go up 10-6 after a 5-1 spurt. Carthage elected not to call time, fighting through the Santa Cruz run and getting some help from the Slugs with a couple of attack errors. Yanz’s service ace capped a 5-0 run for the Red Men to make it 12-11 Carthage and prompt a Santa Cruz timeout. It was all Carthage from that point forward. AVCA Player of the Year Hansen got going again, and finished off the match with back-to-back kills to propel Carthage into the championship with a 25-18 fourth set win.