OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Stevenson men's volleyball team fought off a strong effort from the visiting Arcadia University to claim the first-ever Middle Atlantic Conference title defeating the Knights by a final of 3-0 on Saturday afternoon in front of a very vocal crowd at Owings Mills Gymnasium.
Stevenson (21-8), continue to be hot down the stretch as the victory was their ninth in a row taking the contest by set scores of 25-15, 25-22 and 25-19. The Mustangs also clinched the Middle Atlantic Conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament which will begin next week.
Tournament Most Valuable Player junior Jason Gardner led the Mustangs attack with a match-high 15 kills hitting .406, seven digs, and three total blocks. Senior Alek Klunk finished with nine kills with an impressive .643 attack percentage. Freshman duo Nate Reynolds and Logan Smiley combined for 16 kills, eight digs, and seven total blocks. Conference Player of the Year junior Landon Shorts chipped in six kills and seven digs. Sophomore libero Derek Tangorra tied for a match-high in digs with 11. The setting pair of junior Jared Chin and freshman Aleks Melbardis split even 36 assists with 18 each.
Arcadia (17-13), was paced by Robie Moctezuma who posted nine kills hitting .500 to go with five total blocks. Quinn Baily racked up eight kills and seven digs. Jason Manley coming off of a 20-kill performance in the semi-final at Messiah was limited to just seven kills to go with six digs and three blocks. Three other players joined together to account for nine kills and ten digs. Anthony Devantier handed out a game-high 32 assists.
With the score at 2-2 in the first, a kill from Klunk edged the hosts ahead 3-2, but that would not last long as a kill by Austin Braas and two Moctezuma blocks gave the Knights 5-3 advantage. The Mustangs then mounted a charge with kills from Gardner (2) and blocks coming off the arms of Smiley and Reynolds aided in a 7-2 run to push the home side in front 10-7. Arcadia would rally back to close the gap to 11-10 on an attack error by Shorts, but a service error by Evan Misal tipped the tide back in the Green and White favor. Chin went to the service line and stayed there for nine consecutive points with kills from Gardner and Klunk in addition to blocks by the same pair catapulted the Mustangs out to a 20-10 lead. From there the two teams traded points, but it was not enough with a kill from Smiley and an ace off the hand of Gardner gave the set to Stevenson 25-15.
The Knights got out to a quick start in the second as they took a 3-1 lead before a Klunk kill and away error leveled the frame 3-3. Both sides exchanged points for quite awhile as the set would be tied at 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, and 11-11 with neither squad able to build larger than a two-point edge. A kill by Moctezuma and a Mustangs mishit put the visitors up 13-11. Stevenson came storming back with kills from Reynolds (4), Shorts (2), and Gardner finished off an 8-2 spurt to take a four-point margin at 19-15. Arcadia used scores by Braas, Devantier, Manley, and Baily to pick up five of the next eight to cut the deficit to 22-20. Kills from Smiley and Gardner made it set point for the Green and White, but back-to-back Knights scores by Braas and Baily brought it to 24-22. However, Gardner pounded home another kill to grab the set 25-22.
Arcadia came out of the break strong to begin the third as kills from Moctezuma (2) and an ace for Devantier staked them out to a 6-1 lead. Stevenson galloped all the way back to take a 10-9 advantage thanks to a 9-3 push led by four different players picking up kills Shorts (2), Reynolds (2), Klunk, and Gardner. The Knights were able to keep the margin at one up to 13-12 before a Gardner kill and Klunk ace extended the lead to 15-12. A combination block by Smiley and Reynolds joined together with a Smiley kill sent the deficit to four twice at 17-13 and 18-14. Smiley gave the Green and White their largest lead of the frame with a kill to make it 20-15. Kills from Baily, Moctezuma, and a Shorts serve error kept hope alive for the guests at 22-19. However, kills from three different Stevenson players Klunk, Shorts, and Smiley wrapped up the match and the title 25-19.
The Mustangs as a team hit .321 on 48 kills, while Arcadia hit .160 and totaled 33 kills. Stevenson shared the ball more picking up 41 assists to the Knights 33. The home side held the edge on the service line with four aces to the guests one.
The Mustangs now wait to see where they will be headed for next week as they will take part in the NCAA National Tournament with the selection show to be held on Monday, April 16, at 10:00 a.m. on NCAA.com. Stay tuned to gomustangsports.com for updated information once it is available.