NEWARK, N.J. - It took five sets and more than two hours of volleyball, but in the end visiting Saint Francis left NJIT’s Estelle and Zoom Fleisher Athletic Center Friday night with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Highlanders in Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association action.
The Red Flash, now 4-4 in the EIVA and 7-10 overall, went to the brink, trailing two sets-to-one, but Saint Francis fought back and took the fourth set to draw even and then the deciding fifth set to claim the win. The set scores were: 24-26, 25-19, 24-26, 26-24, and 15-9. The loss drops NJIT’s record in the EIVA to 1-4 and to 3-11 overall.
Friday’s win continued a dominant run in the series for Saint Francis, which has prevailed in seven of its last eight meetings with NJIT. The Red Flash, who won their home leg of the 2012 series, 3-1 in Pennsylvania in February, won six straight vs, NJIT going back to March 2008 before NJIT finally came out on the winning end, 3-1, last March 21 in Newark.
Friday night, the victors had four attackers with double-figure kills totals led by a match-best 24 kills for junior outside hitter Logan Patterson, who also paced the match with two service aces. Classmate Colin Sherwin added 17 kills to the Red Flash attack, while Kyle Beatty and Mark Kochan each had 10 kills. Junior setter Michael Krepp piled up a match-best 58 assists for the Red Flash, who also had four service aces.
On defense, Beatty posted a match-best 19 digs for Saint Francis and Nick Bancroft added 10 digs for the visitors from Pennsylvania. The team blocking was very close (16.5-to-15.5 in favor of Saint Francis, but the top individual blocker in the match was Red Flash senior Adam Roche, with 10 block assists. Colin Sherwin had eight block assists and Kochan had the teams only solo block to go along with five block assists.
NJIT had three double-figure attackers, with Chris Kaepernick and Herman Kantushov sharing team honors at 13 kills apiece, while Doug Battersby contributed 11 kills to the Highlander cause. Sophomore Zak Robben handled the setting chores for NJIT and he gave out 49 assists. NJIT also served four aces, which came from four different men—Kaepernick, Kevin Van Oss, Battersby, and Brad Thele.
Brady Smith was the top defender on the floor for the Highlanders, coming up with 17 digs. Sophomore Ryan Thomas was the top man at the net for NJIT, posting seven total blocks (2 solo, 5 assists), followed by Battersby, who collected six block assists. Thele had just two blocks, but they were both of the solo variety, helping to make him one of five Highlanders to account for at least 10 points (Thele had 11, while Kaepernick and Battersby led the way with 15 points each).
Three of the first four sets went to 26 points to determine a winner. The Highlanders took the first and third sets, 26-24, while Saint Francis prevailed by the same score in the fourth set, forcing a deciding fifth set. The only comfortable set wins both went to Saint Francis, 25-19 in the second frame and 15-9 in the deciding set.
Not surprisingly, given the set scores, the team statistics were close. Neither team hit for a particularly high percentage (.201 for NJIT; .186 for Saint Francis). The Red Flash had a 62-58 lead in assists and each team had four services aces. On the defensive side, the winners had 62 digs to 58 for NJIT and the team blocking was 16.5-to-15.5 in favor of the visitors.
The first set, won by NJIT, featured 11 ties and four lead changes, the last on the 25th point, when Van Oss had a kill to give the Highlanders a 25-24 lead ahead of set point on a kill for Kaepernick. NJIT trailed 3-6 early in the set.
Saint Francis used an 8-2 start to seize control of a second set that was never closer than four points once the score reached 10-5 in favor of the visitors, who got five kills in the set from Patterson.
NJIT regained the upper hand with a win in the third set, using a 7-2 run to flip a 9-12 deficit into a 16-14 lead. The Highlanders later extended their advantage to 24-18 on a kill for Kantushov. However, set point was elusive, as Saint Francis ran off six consecutive points—three on Patterson kills and two on Sherwin kills—to knot the score at 24. NJIT finally took the set when Kantushov put down his sixth kill of the frame and then Saint Francis committed an attack error for the 26th Highlander point.
The fourth set was especially disappointing for NJIT, which fell behind early, 3-9, only to come back and forge an 18-18 tie. There would be five more ties all the way to 24-24. Saint Francis then secured the set with a kill for Roche and a two-man assisted block for Roche and Krepp.
The fifth set had six ties on the way to 15 points, the last at 7-7. Saint Francis then closed the set and match on a 7-2 run, including four straight points from 11-8 to 14-8 with junior Lucas Behringer serving. NJIT avoided elimination on the next point due to an SFU attack error, but the match ended on a serving error by the Highlanders.
NJIT will host Penn State on Saturday at 8 pm in the Fleisher Athletic Center. The East’s preeminent men’s volleyball program for decades, the Nittany Lions are ranked ninth in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II poll.
Story courtesy of NJIT