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MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Rivier, Wentworth Take Care of Business in GNAC Semifinals



No. 2 WENTWORTH 3, No. 3 JWU 2

BOSTON, Mass. –  The Wentworth Institute of Technology men's volleyball team is headed to the Great Northeast Athletic Championship after a thrilling 3-2 victory (25-23, 25-23, 28-30, 17-25, 16-14) over third-seeded Johnson & Wales on Thursday evening.

The Leopards will face nationally ranked No. 13 Rivier in Nashua, N.H. in the Championship, which won its semifinal matchup against Emerson in straight sets.

Wentworth improves to 19-10 overall and advances to its fourth straight conference championship, while JWU closes out its successful season at 21-11.

Wentworth, which hit .257 for the match, had its best offensive showing in the opening set, hitting .447 without a single error, led by five kills from junior Ryan Love (Gaithersburg, Md.). Love put down a career-high 27 kills in the triumph, eight of which came in set two. After taking the opener 25-23, JWU broke a 9-9 tie in the second with a 4-1 spurt, on three Wentworth errors and an ace from Cameron Ponce. Wentworth, which struggled offensively in the frame, gave JWU a 19-14 lead, before staging a mid-set comeback with a 7-2 run. Tied 21-21, Love stole back the lead for the Leopards in addition to a JWU attack error for a 23-21 lead, before junior Xhuljo Zyba (Holbrook, Mass.) and Love put the set away 25-23.

In the longest set of the evening, JWU used five kills apiece from Jack Pincince and Sanjae Holloway to get on the board with its first set win. In a set which featured 15 tied scores and eight lead changes, a Wentworth service error set JWU up for match-point, which was put away with a kill from Josh Pitzer.

Wentworth committed eight errors in the fourth set, which experienced five tied scores and just two lead changes, hitting a mere .097, while JWU hit .242, and grabbed a four-point lead midway through the set, 15-11 after a kill from Pincince. The Leopards sliced the gap to two, 18-16, with a pair of kills from Love, but JWU was lights out in the closing plays, forcing a deciding set with a 7-1 run led by three kills from Sanjae Holloway.

The comeback Wildcats started the fifth set with a 2-1 lead on the heels of a Pitzer kill, but Wentworthscored four unanswered points with two coming from Love to force a JWU timeout early on. An assisted block by Love and freshman Ian Carlson (Parker, Colo.) doubled-up on the Wildcats 10-5, but the Wildcats wouldn't go quietly, as a 3-0 spurt from Pincince and Holloway deadlocked the set 13-13. The Leopards were awarded match-point after a Holloway attack attempt soared out of bounds, but a counter attack error from Wentworth spoiled it for the Leopards for the time being. Love put the Leopards up 15-14 before JWU's attack attempt sailed into the net to award Wentworth the semifinal victory.

Love added eight digs and six assisted blocks to his match-high 27 kills, and was joined by Zyba and junior Ryan Engel (Floral Park, N.Y.) in double-digit kills, with 16 and 12, respectively. Engel booked another double-double with 10 digs, his sixth of the season.

Defensively, sophomore Peter Klembczyk (Penfield, N.Y.) led the charge with 16 digs as all but one Leopard who saw the court registered at least one dig. The Leopards posted 11 total team blocks, led by eight from Carlson.

Courtesy of Wentworth Athletics Communications. 

No. 1 RIVIER 3, No. 4 EMMANUEL 0 

(Nashua, N.H.) The Rivier University Raiders advance to the finals after putting down fourth-seeded Emmanuel College in three sets.  The scores were 25-22, 25-22 and 21-25.  While the score lines were tight, the Raiders always had a lead with the exception of one error committed in the third set.  

Junior outside hitter David Smith (Clinton, Oh.) led the Raiders with 12 kills on 24 attempts hitting at .375.  Senior Dashaun Graham (Highland Park, N.Y.) had a day as he earned 7 kills and 2 blocks.  

Freshman Jack Normandin (Clifton Park, N.Y.) soared high today dropping 6 kills on those below and Senior Khaynen (Pittsburgh, Pa.) matched his teammate with 6 kills on 11 attempts while hitting an efficient .545.  The upperclassman also notched 2 assists, 4 digs and 3 blocks. 

Junior Francis Kokoros (Braintree, Mass.) put up some great numbers as he tallied 5 kills and 3 aces.  He also collected 5 digs and a solo block. 

Junior Cam Roth (Coventry, R.I.) denied the Leopards 11 scoring opportunities by way of digs.

Junior Pedro Campos (Downey, Calif.) proved yet again why he was honored with the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week four times.  The setter averages 10.20 assists per set and totalled 969 assists in just 28 matches. 

Much credit is due to the Saints as they finished the season 21-12 overall and 9-5 within the GNAC.  Some key student-athletes were two upperclassmen.  Outside hitter Erik English (Simi Valley, Calif.) had an outstanding season as he recently earned GNAC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 11 and Defensive Player of the Week back in Week 6.  Alex Silva (Jamaica Plain, Mass.) also earned a Defensive Player of the Week honor in week 8. 

Courtesy of Rivier Athletics Communications. 

The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 20 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience.