BEVERLY, Mass. – Elms sophomore setter Daniel Lebron (San Juan, Puerto Rico) set the tone for a 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-14, 28-26) Blazers victory over Southern Vermont in NECC Semifinal action with 38 assists, 13 digs, three aces and three kills.
The #2 seed Elms (19-7) will now face top-seeded Endicott in the title match to determine the winner of the automatic qualifier into the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Tournament.
Playing as the #3 seed, Southern Vermont took a convincing 25-17 set one victory and nearly forced a fifth and deciding set but ended their historic season 12-19 overall. The Mountaineers were led offensively by sophomore Anthony Barahona (Eagle Rock, Calif.) and freshman Gabriel Franco (Pico Rivera, Calif.) who totaled nine and seven kills, respectively, in the loss.
The Blazers showcased a balanced offensive attack with three players amassing nine kills each and two more recording eight kills. Seniors Yonalvy Acosta (Holyoke, Mass.) and Carlos DeLeon (Carolina, Puerto Rico) as well as junior Stephen Cameron (Newington, Conn.) each struck nine kills while both Angel Castro (Carolina, Puerto Rico) and Bryson Rainey (Brookline, Mass.) had eight apiece.
Both teams were effective defensively at the net, especially the Blazers who had two solo blocks and 18 assisted blocks as a team. Acosta led all players with nine total blocks with Castro adding six block assists. The Mountaineers saw both Barahona and freshman middle Joseph Dighton (Riverside, Calif.) total four assisted blocks each.
Lebron's 13 digs were a match-high but DeLeon, Castro and Cameron were a presence with nine, eight, and seven digs, respectively. For Southern Vermont, senior libero Nick Haggerty (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and freshman defensive specialist Tino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) led their squad with nine digs.
Southern Vermont held on to a slim lead for much of the first set before stretching it out to five or six points before pushing it as large as eight points on the 25-17 set final. Elms responded by jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead in set two to change momentum. The Blazers would hold off Southern Vermont's attempts to come back, never allowing the Mountaineers to get closer than three points in their 25-20 win.
The Blazers exploded to score the first 10 points of the third set as they cruised to a 25-14 win. Two of Lebron's three aces came during the initial run.
In the final set, Southern Vermont fought hard to stay in the match by tying the score on nine different occasions. Late in the set, with the Blazers looking to win the match up 26-25, blocks by Barahona and Dighton kept the Mountaineers alive. Elms, however, saw Cameron strike a kill and earned the final point off a Mountaineer error to advance into the championship.