BEVERLY, Mass. — A record-setting run came to a close for the Southern Vermont College men's volleyball team Friday night as the No. 2 Mountaineers fell 3-2 to No. 3 Regis College at Endicott College in a hard-fought New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) semifinal matchup.
Southern Vermont, a team picked to finish fifth and miss the postseason tournament in the preseason coaches poll, made its fifth-straight NECC Semifinal appearance after breaking the team's all-time wins record. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers could not finish off their third defeat of the Pride this year, concluding the NECC season with a program-best 16-10 mark. They will now await to see if their season will continue with a selection to the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament.
SVC took the first set convincingly with a 25-14 victory before RC (12-15) bounced back for the 25-19 win in the second to even the match. The two sides battled in the third as Regis took the contest edge with a 29-27 triumph, but the Mountaineers came back to force the deciding fifth with a 25-18 win in the fourth. Neither side led by more than two in the last frame as the teams failed to concede the chance for a championship appearance. The Pride won the last two points, however, for the 15-13 victory to close out the match and move on to the title round.
Mountaineer freshman Stewart Ramirez (Los Angeles, Calif.) led all players with 23 kills, adding 12 digs and a pair of block assists to his line. Senior Keven Walley (Pico Rivera, Calif.) followed with 19 kills and nine digs while classmate Joey Dighton (Riverside, Calif.) tallied 10 kills, four total blocks, three digs and a pair of service aces. Senior Scott Fitzgerald (Queensbury, N.Y.) chipped in with nine kills and eight digs while senior setter Herson Canta (Lagunitas, Calif.) notched a program-best 63 assists in the effort. Mountaineer senior libero Tino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) popped up a match-best 16 digs on the night.
Southern Vermont was in control of the first set from the start, going up 7-0 after the opening serve. Points went back-and-forth until the Mountaineers, up 17-13, scored another seven unanswered before a Ramirez kill put the game away at 25-14.
The second set was tight as Regis took a marginal lead but could not pull away. SVC never led after being up 2-1, but the Mountaineers were able to keep it close before a 5-0 Pride run put RC up by seven (20-13). Southern Vermont answered with three straight points to close the gap, but Regis landed three kills en route to taking the set 25-19 to tie up the match.
RC went up 4-1 in the early going of the third, but SVC came back to go on top 13-10 midway through the game. The Pride scored the next three points to tie things up, only to have the Mountaineers continue to land points for the edge. Down 23-22, Regis put down two kills to force the set point and a Southern Vermont timeout. SVC came out of the break to extend the match with a Ramirez kill, and the teams traded serve as points went back-and-forth. Two straight Walley kills put his team up 26-25, but RC was able to notch the next two for the 27-26 upper hand. Another Walley kill would make it 27-27, but the Pride registered the next two points to close it out at 29-27 for the match advantage.
Looking to extend not only the match, but its season, Southern Vermont came out and took an 8-4 lead in the fourth with the help of four kills. A 4-1 SVC run opened the Mountaineers' lead to 14-7, and they would never trail the rest of the frame. Ramirez landed two straight kills to make it a 17-10 upper hand as Southern Vermont carried its cushion to the 25-18 win to even the match once again.
The final frame was the closest of the night as neither squad could get a sizable lead. Two straight SVC points made it 9-8 before Regis answered with a pair of its own to set the score at 11-9. After the Pride notched another pair of consecutive kills, Southern Vermont utilized a timeout and came out of it with a pair of its own. Service was traded until RC closed out the match with two unanswered points for the upset.