CHICOPEE, Mass. – In an important New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's volleyball match and continued rivalry, Southern Vermont College lost at Elms College Wednesday night, 3-2, at Picknelly Arena. It marks the fourth-straight regular season match in which the two teams have needed a fifth set to decide the victor while Elms knocked SVC out of the postseason a year ago with a 3-1 win.
The Mountaineers, who had controlled their own postseason destiny prior to their final two NECC contests, fall to 5-6 in conference play (8-17 overall) while Elms improves to 7-4 against the league, 14-12 overall on the season. With the loss, Southern Vermont now needs Newbury College to lose at home against Endicott College on Saturday in order to grab the fourth-and-final seed in the NECC playoff tournament.
With the match even at two sets apiece, Elms raced out to an early 5-1 lead in the fifth frame sparked by a pair of attack errors by Southern Vermont and kills from senior outside hitter Stephen Cameron (Newington, Conn.), junior middle hitter Bryson Rainey (Brookline, Mass.) and freshman outside hitter Jeff Vautrin (Chicopee, Mass.).
The Mountaineers answered with four-straight points and six of the next nine to set the score at 8-7 in favor of Elms. A kill by Cameron and an assisted block by Rainey and sophomore middle hitter Angel Castro (Carolina, Puerto Rico) bookended three attack errors by Southern Vermont and lifted the Blazers' advantage to 13-7. Junior Anthony Barahona (Eagle Rock, Calif.) exploded for three kills to highlight a four-point stretch and pull the Mountaineers to within two at 13-11, but Rainey and Cameron floored back-to-back kills to seal the win for Elms.
Rainey tied with Barahona for the match-high in kills with 18, and both recorded double-doubles with 11 and 15 digs respectively.
Southern Vermont received 11 kills from Caleb Odom (Redlands, Calif.) and 10 from Keven Walley (Pico Rivera, Calif.) while setter Herson Canta (Los Angeles, Calif.) dished out 40 assists, notched 11 digs and served up a pair of aces in the loss.
Barahona registered a team-high 15 digs followed by 14 from libero Florentino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.).
Elms junior setter Kevin Welsh (Wilbraham, Mass.) dished out a collegiate career-high 64 assists and a match-best 18 digs on the night. Vautrin added 13 kills and eight digs, while Castro and Cameron totaled 12 kills each and 11 and 15 digs respectively. Castro added seven assisted blocks and a pair of service aces while freshman outside hitter Aleksandr Kuzmenko (Chicopee, Mass.) downed nine kills and secured four assisted blocks in the winning effort.
In the first set, the sides battled to six tie scores and three lead changes before Barahona and freshman Alonzo Wright (Chula Vista, Calif.)smashed back-to-back kills to break a 27-27 deadlock and seal a 29-27 first-set victory for the Mountaineers.
In the second set, the teams battled to six more ties and four lead exchanges, and Vautrin sealed the frame with a kill to give Elms a 25-21 win and even the match at 1-1. The Blazers then posted a 25-14 win in the third frame to stake a 2-1 advantage in the contest before Southern Vermont responded with a 25-17 win in the fourth stanza to force the deciding fifth set.
Southern Vermont continues its busy week with two matches at the Mass. Institute of Technology Scramble in Cambridge, Mass. Friday night with a 5 p.m. rematch against Elmira College and a 7 p.m. meeting with Springfield College, the third time this season the two will face off; Elmira took the early-season contest 3-1, and Springfield swept the Mountaineers both times this year, 3-0. Elms turns to its regular season finale at Daniel Webster College on Saturday at 1 p.m.