Men's Volleyball Captures Skyline Championship
UNION, N.J. (4/14/12) – In just its second year as a varsity sport, the Kean University men's volleyball team captured the 2012 Skyline Conference Championship and earned the automatic bid to the first NCAA Men's Volleyball Championships with a straight-set win (25-21, 25-18, 25-23) over Ramapo College on Saturday evening.
After being named Skyline Conference Player of the Year earlier in the day, junior Steve Vahalla earned Skyline Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after finishing with 11 kills and five digs in the championship match against his former squad. Vahalla transferred to Kean in Fall 2010 after spending his freshman year at Ramapo.
Ramapo took an early 7-3 lead in the first set, before the Cougars eventually tied the set up at 10-10. The two teams traded points, with Ramapo taking its final lead of the opening set at 12-11 on a kill by Paul Konopacki. From there, the Cougars built a 20-16 lead on a kill by Vahalla and held a 22-17 advantage, before the Roadrunners scored three straight to pull within 22-20. Vahalla halted the run with a kill and the Cougars scored two of the final three points on Ramapo errors to win the opening set.
The Cougars controlled much of the second set, leading by as many as six points at 18-12, following the kill by rookie John Cunningham. The Roadrunners pulled to within four points on a pair of occasions, before the Cougars closed out the win at 25-18 on the Ramapo error.
In a tight third set, neither team led by more than three points, with much of the match being a one-point difference throughout. Ramapo built an early 10-7 lead on a kill by Brian Colabella, before the Cougars answered with four of the next five points to tie the match at 11-11.
It was a one-point match until the Cougars were able to score four straight points to take a 23-20 lead. Ramapo responded with three straight points to tie the match on last time, before the Cougars captured the program's first conference championship on the service ace by senior Christian Portera.
Portera finished with nine kills and six assisted blocks, while rookie Kyle Farley added eight kills in 15 attack attempts and made seven total blocks. Rookie Alex Barnhard dished out 34 assists and senior Sam Haimann made a match-high 11 digs.
For the Roadrunners, Colabella and Jeff Jones each finished with 11 kills. Setter Harsh Prajapati had 31 assists.
Earlier in the day, the top-seeded Cougars defeated #4 The Sage Colleges, 3-1, in the semifinals, while the #2 Roadrunners rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat #3 New Jersey City University in five sets.
In the four-set win (25-16, 25-18, 20-25, 25-17) against Sage, Vahalla finished with 16 kills and 13 digs, while Cunningham had 12 kills and six digs. Haimann totaled a match-high 17 digs and Barnhard had 36 assists.
The Cougars now await the announcement of the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Tournament Selections on Sunday evening.