POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (4/20/18)- For the second time in program history the Kean University men's volleyball team clawed their way to the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship Tournament, by surpassing the St. Joseph's College- Long Island, 3-1.
The Cougars have now won 28 straight and improve to 34-2 on the season.
This is the sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth for the Cougars, and the first berth coming from the Continental Volleyball Conference. Previously, Kean dominated as members of the Skyline Conference. The match was the first NCAA berth for the Golden Eagles. SJC-LI held it's inaugural season last year and went 19-11 overall, and 6-3 in conference. This season, the Golden Eagles amassed an undefeated record in the Skyline Conference (10-0), ironically, while going 23-8 overall.
The Golden Eagles opened the first set strong offensively going on a 5-1 run. The Cougars rallied to bring the score back within two points. A strong right kill from Nico Mercadante, followed by block from Mercadante and Shayron Taylor, allowed Kean to take the lead for the first time in the match. Nick Buseski served for four straight points before SJC-LI called it's first time out. Following the time out a short run by the Golden Eagles tied the game back up at 12-all. The Cougars and Golden Eagles traded kills, neither team ever leading by more than two, until a service ace from Kean's Steven Zarzycki edged out a 26-24 win.
Kean finished the set with 15 kills, 15 digs and 6 total team blocks, while SJC-LI had 10 kills with 10 digs.
Set two of the match commenced with the Cougars on the offensive attack going on a quick 4-0 run off the serve of Ian Capp. SJC-LI got on the board for the first time in the set with a strong kill from Kyle Biggers. SJC-LI earned the next point on a Kean attacking error, though the Golden Eagles allowed three more points in Cougar's favor before calling the first timeout of set. SJC-LI stayed in it siding out for three more points, though Kean responded with blocks by Jared Warner and Buseski bringing the Cougars to a spacious 12-5 lead. Later a solo block from SJC-LI's Will Flohr gave the Golden Eagle's possession and closed the gap to two points, the smallest deficit in the set thus far. Kean answered back scoring four consecutive points by Taylor and Mercadante, bringing the score to 20-14. SJC-LI would go on to score 2 more points but ultimately, the point deficit proved to be too much with the Cougars claiming set two 25-16.
At the end of the second set, Kean was hitting .226 for the day.
The third set proved to be a see-saw battle to start. A Kean service error followed by an attacking error gave SJC-LI a two-point advantage. SJC-LI widened that advantage with kills by Flohr from Tyler Jones. Kean connected with four more kills down the stretch but SJC-LI maintained the lead, never letting Kean come within more than three points, securing the third set, 25-21.
SJC-LI concluded the set with it's highest hitting percentage of the match, . 448.
With the offensive momentum of the match swinging in favor of the Golden Eagles, set four was intense from the first serve. Kean found leverage, though, going on an 8-5 run before trading points with SJC-LI. A stalemate at 11, Kean took control of the match with two consecutive SJC-LI errors, and kills by Capp, Mercadante and Warner going up 17-12. The Golden Eagles scored four points before the Cougars pushed out to a 21-16 lead prompting a SJC-LI timeout. Kean returned to the court ready to finish the match. With Capp, the Cougar's best server going into the match, at the line, Kean secured the match off a service ace, 25-17.
Buseski lead the way offensively for Kean with 17 kills while Zarzycki and Warner each tallied 10. Capp handed out a total of 47 assists. Defensively for the Cougars, Taylor and Buseski each got eight block assists and Capp recorded 18 digs.
For SJC-LI, Paul Curaro led the team in kills with 15 while Tyler served 34 helpers and Danny McNamara registered 14 digs.
The Cougars are back in action tomorrow at 6 p.m. inside Kenyon Hall facing the host team, Vassar College. These two teams have not competitively played one another since 2016, where Vassar lost in 3 straight sets.
Courtesy of Ava Yurchison, Vassar