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Lions Beat Top-Seeded NJCU to Advance to ECAC Championship

Lions Beat Top-Seeded NJCU to Advance to ECAC Championship

by Christina Roukas

MAHWAH, N.J. – On Saturday morning at Ramapo College's Bradley Center, the Penn State Altoona men's volleyball team played against New Jersey City University for a chance to advance in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Championship Tournament.

The Lions, the fourth seed in the tournament, knocked off the top-seeded Gothic Knights 3-1 in the semifinal round to earn the program's first-ever ECAC Division III Championship match appearance. Penn State Altoona will face the winner of the other semifinal match between two seed Ramapo and three seed Kean University, with the two semifinal winners meeting in the ECAC Division III Championship at approximately 5:00 p.m. today.

New Jersey City (22-10) won the opening set of Saturday's ECAC semifinal round match by a score of 25-18. But Penn State Altoona (16-12) bounced back to pull out three hard-fought wins in a row, taking the next three sets by scores of 25-21, 26-24, and 28-26. The win is the Lions' first-ever ECAC postseason victory.

Jared Kish's (Columbus, OH/Hilliard Darby) solo block put the Lions in the lead, 2-1, early in the first set. Trey Sadler (Grantville, PA/Lower Dauphin) scored a kill to keep the Lions in the lead by one, 4-3. The Knights came back to take the lead, then used a six-point run later in the set to turn their two-point advantage into an 18-10 lead. Philip Silva (Brazil/Richard Montgomery) scored a kill to lower the Lions' deficit to eight, 21-13, and his ace kept his team alive in the set, 24-17. But New Jersey City won the first set 25-18.

In the second set, Sadler scored a kill to tie the score 5-5, then had an ace to put Penn State Altoona up 6-5. Connor Ebersole's (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle) hit for a kill increased the Lions' lead to three, 9-6, and Sadler's kill held his team's lead at 14-11. The Knights scored the next four points to go up 15-14, but a New Jersey City service error and two Silva kills brought the lead back to the Lions, 17-15. Kills by Kish and Silva made it 24-21, and needing only one point to close the set, Sadler and Ebersole combined for a block to win the set 25-21.

In the third set, the Lions came out strong. Silva scored a kill and followed with a block to give Penn State Altoona a 5-2 lead, and a duo block by Ebersole and Sadler extended the Lions' lead to five, 7-2. The Knights came back, tying the match 19-19 and eventually taking a one-point lead. Jared Bodisch (Red Lion, PA/Red Lion) scored an ace to tie the score 23-23, and Silva tied the match once again on his kill that made it 24-24. An error and another Silva kill helped the Lions win the third set 26-24

Kish scored a kill to tie the fourth set, 2-2, and scored a block to help his team take the lead, 3-2. Bodisch hit through a block to make it 9-7, and after New Jersey City went ahead by one, Silva tied the match 11-11 with a kill. Connor Baker's (Red Lion, PA/Red Lion) dump over for a kill put Penn State Altoona up by one, 13-12. The Lions hustled to close the fourth set, coming back from a 26-25 deficit late. Silva's kill and Baker's solo block put Penn State Altoona in front, and Bodisch scored the match kill as the Lions prevailed 28-26 to win the set and advance to the ECAC championship.

Silva led all players in the match with 22 points on a match-high 20 kills to go along with a solo block and service ace, and he also posted 13 digs. Sadler accumulated 13.5 points on 10 kills, three block assists, and two aces.

Kish had six kills, four digs, and a solo block, and Bodisch recorded five kills while finishing with a match-high 20 digs. Ebersole added four kills and three block assists.

Baker totaled 40 assists to help propel the Lions' offense, and he also had seven digs, four kills, and one solo block.

Micah Brinker (Lock Haven, PA/PA Cyber) tallied 11 digs.