HOBOKEN, N.J. – The Stevenson men's volleyball team trailed early in the first and second sets of Friday night's match, but rallied each time to win the frame en route to a 3-0 victory over No. 15 Elms College (Mass.) in the First Round of the NCAA DIII Men's Volleyball Tournament hosted by Stevens Institute of Technology.
Stevenson (22-8), continue to be scorching hot as they won their tenth in a row taking the contest by set scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-14.
The Mustangs were led by double-digit kills from a pair of juniors Middle Atlantic Conference Player of the Year Landon Shorts and MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Jason Gardner who each posted ten kills. Shorts also added five aces and two blocks, while Gardner recorded three digs and a block as well. Freshman Logan Smiley posted eight kills hitting .294 with four digs and a block. Senior Alex Klunk totaled seven kills on a .500 attack percentage to go along with two aces. Freshman Nate Reynolds finished with three kills hitting an impressive .600 and a team-high five blocks. The setting combination of junior Jared Chin and freshman Aleks Melbardis racked up 31 assists with Chin handing out a match-high 18.
Elms (20-7), was paced by Jeremy Torres with a team-high eight kills hitting .667, chipping in seven digs and three blocks. His brother Jovanny Torres recorded four kills, five digs, and a pair of blocks. Martin Acevedo added six kills and four aces. Gabriel Reis Levy finished with five kills and three blocks. Setter John Dunphy dished out a team-high 15 assists.
Stevenson fell behind early in the first 2-0 after a service error and a kill from Jeremy Torres. A score by Klunk and a pair of aces from Shorts sent the Mustangs ahead for the first time 4-2. Four of the next six belonged to the Green and White thanks to points earned by Klunk and Smiley giving them an 8-5 advantage. Then the Blazers got hot going on a 8-0 run getting kills from two different players to jump out to a 13-8 lead. The two sides split the following eight points allowing Elms to maintain the five-point margin at 17-12. The Mustangs came galloping back using a 8-2 push to take a 20-19 advantage. During that stretch, three different individuals (Shorts, Smiley and Klunk) accounted for Stevenson scores. Kills by Jovanny Torres and Levy knotted the score at 20-20 and 22-22. Kills coming off the arms of Reynolds and Shorts coupled with a Blazers mishit gave the set to the Green and White 25-22.
The second saw Elms jump out quick again as a kill by Jeremy Torres gave the Blazers a 3-1 lead. The Mustangs rallied back with kills from Smiley, Reynolds, and Shorts along with three combination blocks (Reynolds/Gardner, Smiley/Reynolds, and Reynolds/Melbardis) wrapped up a 12-1 run catapulting Stevenson to a 13-4 edge. A 7-3 streak from Elms cut the deficit down to five as an error on the attack by Gardner trimmed it to 16-11. The Mustangs nudged the advantage out to six by taking four of the next seven to take a 20-14 lead on a kill by Gardner. The Blazers answered back with a 6-2 push of their own thanks to kill from Acevedo, Jovanny Torres, and Jeremy Torres (2) to bring the margin to 22-20. Shorts picked up a kill making it 23-20 before a kill by Gardner and a Chin ace capped the set at 25-20.
In the third, it was the Green and White who got out to the fast start. After falling behind 2-0, kills by Shorts and Klunk in conjunction with a Shorts ace gave Stevenson a 5-2 edge. Scores from Jake Johnson and Acevedo brought the margin to two at 7-5. Two kills each off the hands of Smiley and Shorts finished off a 6-2 run to give the Mustangs a 13-7 advantage. The Green and White held the six point lead all the way out to 15-9. They then extended the margin out to eleven with three kills by Klunk and a solo from Smiley to make it 21-10. Four of the final scores of the match went the way of Stevenson as an emphatic kill from Shorts ended the hopes of Elms at 25-14.
The Mustangs as a team hit .375 on 41 kills, while Elms hit .154 and totaled 27 kills. Stevenson shared the ball more picking up 36 assists to the Blazers 24. The Green and White held a slim edge on the service line at 8-6.
The Mustangs will have little time to enjoy the win as they are right back at it tomorrow Saturday, April 21 when they battle the host No. 3 Stevens Institute of Technology in the Quarter-Finals of the NCAA DIII Men's Volleyball Tournament at Canavan Arena in Hoboken, New Jersey. First serve against the Ducks is set for 6pm.