BOSTON, Mass. – Junior Xhuljo Zyba (Holbrook, Mass.) notched a match-high 18 kills and hit .412 with three services aces, but the Kingsmen of California Lutheran outlasted the Wentworth men's volleyball team in five sets on Tuesday evening inside Tansey Gymnasium.
The Kingsmen, who received 14 votes in the latest AVCA Division III National Poll, took the opening set 25-19, before Wentworth bounced back with a 25-21 set victory in the second. The Leopards outlived Cal Lutheran 36-34 in the third set in the second-longest set played in program history, before dropping the fourth,13-25, and the deciding set 13-15.
While things looked bleak for the Leopards when the Kingsmen opened on a 10-2 run, the Leopards ignited a valiant comeback let in the set after freshman Connor Adams (Budd Lake, N.J.) put down a service aces to trail 20-10. The Leopards turned a 9-3 run led by three kills from junior Ryan Engel (Floral Park, N.Y.), forcing the Kingsmen to burn a timeout, 23-19. Cal Lu held on for the 25-19 final, on a Wentworth miscue and a kill from Dasmen Stewart (Oxnard, Calif.).
Wentworth came out swinging in the second, as the set tied just twice at 1-1 and 7-7 before the Black & Gold ran away with the frame. Junior Scott Skarzynski (Webster, N.Y.) gave the Leopards their largest lead of the game at 19-11, and fought off a comeback from Cal Lutheran, led by a trio aces from Patrick Rowe (Long Beach, Calif.). Zyba and junior Ryan Love (Gaithersburg, Md.) each had four kills in the effort.
In what was perhaps the greatest highlight of the five-set match, the Leopards and the Kingsmen went the distance in the third, with 17 tied scores and nine lead changes. Both teams battled neck-and-neck after Skarzynski tied the set 25-25, until Zyba gave the Black & Gold final match point with a kill off the hands of Adams. Zyba and freshman Ian Carlson (Parker, Colo.) jumped up for a crucial block to Connor Hinthorn's (Ridgefield, Wash.) attack, rewarding the Leopards a 36-34 set victory and a 2-1 match lead. Zyba was a key element to the Leopards' success in the third with 8.5 points and three aces.
Cal Lutheran switched gears in the fourth, hitting .533 with just one error on nine swings, paced by five kills from Mason Mercer (Solana Beach, Calif.). The Kingsmen rode momentum into the deciding set, and broke a 10-10 tie with a 5-3 run, capped by a kill from Stewart.
Zyba notched a match-high 18 kills (.412) with three service aces, while classmate Augusto Rodriguez-Guerrios (San Juan, P.R.) posted a double-double with 26 assists and 15 digs. Sophomore Peter Klembczyk (Penfield, N.Y.) led the court with a season-high 16 digs, while Engel rounded out double-digits on offense with 12 kills and three aces.
Stewart was the long Kingsman to reach double digits on the offensive side with 10 kills (.316) and added four assisted blocks for 12 points overall. Rowe added 12 points of his own with nine kills and five assisted blocks, as Cal Lutheran had 10.5 blocks as a team.
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