BEVERLY, Mass. – Second-seeded Elms College had three players smash a team-high nine kills as the Blazers posted a 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-14, 28-26) victory over No.3 Southern Vermont College in Friday evening's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship tournament men's volleyball semifinal match at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.
With the win, Elms improves to 19-7 overall and will advance to Saturday afternoon's NECC Championship tournament title match against top seed and host Endicott (16-13). The Gulls swept No. 4 Daniel Webster College (14-7) earlier in the evening to punch their ticket to the finals.
Saturday's match will take place at 4:00 p.m. at Endicott with the winner receiving the league's automatic qualifier to the first-ever NCAA Division III Championship in men's volleyball.
After falling in the first set, 25-17, Elms rallied to win the next two sets to take a 2-1 lead in the contest.
In the fourth frame, Southern Vermont led by as many as five (15-10) on a kill by Connor Murray (Litchfield, Conn.) before the Blazers rallied for five straight points, highlighted by a pair of service aces by senior outside hitter Carlos DeLeon (Carolina, Puerto Rico) and a kill by sophomore middle hitter Bryson Rainey (Brookline, Mass.) to even the set at 15-15.
After the sides played to a 17-17 tie, the Mountaineers strung together four consecutive points to extend their cushion back to four as a kill by Anthony Barahona (Eagle Rock, Calif.) and a trio of miscues by Elms allowed Southern Vermont to stake a 21-17 lead. The Blazers responded with a 4-0 run of their own as kills by senior middle hitter Yonalvy Acosta (Holyoke, Mass.) and freshman middle hitter Angel Castro (Carolina, Puerto Rico) sandwiched an assisted block by the duo and a solo stuff by Acosta to even the frame at 21-21.
Five more ties brought the score to 26-26 before Elms' junior outside hitter Stephen Cameron (Newington, Conn.) blasted a kill to give Elms just its second lead of the stanza. The Mountaineers then suffered an attacking error allowing the Blazers to earn a 28-26 victory in the set and post a 3-1 win in the match and secure their meeting with Endicott.
Acosta, DeLeon and Cameron each struck for nine kills, while Castro and Rainey followed with eight kills apiece in the winning effort.
Sophomore setter Daniel Lebron (San Juan, Puerto Rico) dished out 38 assists and registered a match-high 13 digs, while he, Castro and DeLeon finished with three service aces each. DeLeon added nine digs, Castro notched eight digs and six assisted blocks and Cameron dug seven balls to help pace the win.
Barahona collected a team-high nine kills and four assisted blocks, while Gabriel Franco (Pico Rivera, Calif.) followed with seven kills and seven digs in the losing effort.
Herson Canta (Los Angeles, Calif.) distributed 25 helpers, while Tino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) and Nick Haggerty (Wynantskill, N.Y.) notched nine digs each.