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Championship Bound: Men's Volleyball Advances to Third Straight GNAC Title Match

Championship Bound:  Men's Volleyball Advances to Third Straight GNAC Title Match

BOSTON, Mass. – For the third consecutive season the Wentworth Institute of Technology men's volleyball team will play for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship. The second-seeded Leopards advanced to the finals with a 3-0 win over third-seeded Johnson & Wales in one conference semifinal Thursday night.

With the win the two-time defending GNAC champions improve to 22-10 and will travel to top-seeded Rivier for the championship match Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The Raiders rallied to beat Emmanuel, 3-1. Johnson & Wales ends its season with an 18-15 record. The title match will be a rematch of the 2016 classic, in which the Leopards rallied for a 3-2 win to capture the program's first conference championship.

Wentworth held a pair of two-point leads early in the first set, including when a sophomore Ryan Engel (Floral Park, N.Y.) kill made it 5-3. Johnson & Wales scored five of the next six points and took an 8-6 lead when junior Cameron Ponce (San Jose, Calif.) and sophomore Zach Turner (Coventry, R.I.) teamed up on a block. Trailing 12-10, the Leopards scored four straight points and took a 15-12 lead, capped off by a service ace from sophomore Josh Jackson (Massillon, Ohio). The Wildcats closed the gap to 15-14, however, Wentworth responded with eight of the next nine points, including three kills from senior Ollie Oshman (Pennington, N.J), to make it 23-15 and took a 1-0 lead with a 25-16 win. Oshman hit .714 (5-0-7 in the frame to go along with two blocks. As a team the Black & Gold hit .474 and forced Johnson & Wales to hit -.043.

The two teams nearly went point-for-point early in the second set, leading to three ties before Wentworth took an 8-4 lead on a block from Oshman and sophomore Xhuljo Zyba (Holbrook, Mass.) and extended their lead to 14-9 on a Ritter kill. Three straight points, including a kill from freshman Dondre Crump (Chicopee, Mass.) pulled Johnson & Wales within two and forced the Black & Gold to call timeout. Out of the timeout, the Wildcats scored the next two points to even the set at 14-all. The teams battled through three more ties before a kill from sophomore Sanjae Holloway (East Harford, Conn.) and a Wentworth attack error made it 18-16. Four straight Leopard points made it 20-18, forcing the visitors to call timeout, and, out of the timeout, the Black & Gold extended their run to 7-0 after a sophomore Ryan Love (Gaithersburg, Md.) kill. The Leopards took a 2-0 lead with a 25-19 win. Ritter and Love each had six kills in the set while Oshman added two more blocks.

After the teams traded four points to open the third set, Wentworth scored five of the next six points and took a 7-3 lead on a ball handling error. Johnson & Wales used kills from Ponce and Turner to make it 7-5. The Leopards scored three of the next four points and took a 10-6 lead on a kill from Love. The Wildcats got a point back on a service error, however, Wentworth used a 6-1 run and took a 16-8 lead on a kill from Engel. Johnson & Wales responded with six straight points and trimmed the lead to 16-14. A kill from Ritter ended the run and began a three-point spurt which put the hosts ahead, 19-14. The Wildcats used a 6-1 run and tied the set at 20-all on an ace from Crump. A service error gave the Black & Gold a point and serve and extended the lead to 24-20 on a kill from Love. The Leopards completed the sweep with a 25-21 win. Oshman and Engel had four kills apiece in the set.

Ritter finished with 12 kills, hit .476 (12-2-21), had 19 assists, six digs, and two blocks. Love had 10 kills and hit .368 (10-3-19) while Oshman had nine kills and five blocks. Engel also helped the Leopards' .354 attack with a seven-kill performance. Sophomore Augusto Rodriguez-Guerrios (Guaynabo, P.R.) had 19 assists and freshman Peter Klembczyk (Penfield, N.Y.) had nine digs.

Turner had five kills and two blocks for Johnson & Wales while Crump, junior Matt LaVasseur (Salem, N.H.), and sophomore Nick Bitetto (East Northport, N.Y.) each had four kills. Ponce had three kills and 19 assists while junior Alex Seda (San Juan, P.R.) had seven digs.

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