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.
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 Wentworth scored 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.
First-serve between the ranked Raiders and the Leopards is set for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday evening inside Muldoon Gymnasium.
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