EMU's volleyball men got defensive and it worked.
The Royals racked up 20 blocks, including 16 over the final three sets, as they shocked top-seeded Marymount University in a 3-2 come-from-behind win in the CVC Tournament semifinals. Eastern Mennonite advances to Saturday's championship, playing at 6:00pm against the No. 2 seed, Juniata. JC beat Stevenson in four in the other semifinal. The Royals split with the Eagles during the regular season, each winning on their home court.
EMU trailed 2-0 in the match before totally shutting down Marymount's attack over the final sets. It was only fitting that the Royals closed the day with a block from William Ragland (North Chesterfield, Va./Thomas Dale) and R.J. Ocampo (Virginia Beach, Va./First Colonial). The 20 blocks were their second-highest total of the year.
Over the first two sets, the men had just four blocks as the Saints won by scores of 25-17 and 31-29. EMU actually served for set six times in the second before Marymount rattled off three straight points to steal the set. The Saints hit .392 at that point in the match.
But that all changed early in the third. The Royals made numerous short runs and each time it seemed the streak was capped by a block. Ragland had a solo stuff to make it 13-9, and Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) teamed with Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) for back-to-back blocks to finish a 4-0 run for a 21-16 margin.
Ragland landed a kill as EMU ended the third set on an 8-2 run, winning 25-18.
The momentum carried to the fourth, where the men had a pair of blocks and scored the first six points. Nothing went right for Marymount after that as the Royals cleaned house with a 25-13 final.
Tied at two sets apiece, the question remained – could the Saints regroup in the fifth?
Fueled by the home crowd, Marymount played better, scoring the first point. They held a handful of two-point leads, including at 7-5, as the pressure started to build on EMU's side.
Ocampo rose to the occasion, getting a solo block along with an assist from Callahan as the Royals scored the next four points to take over, 9-7. Marymount got within one point, but could get no closer as EMU spread the ball around on offense and found numerous open looks.
The Saints had a 2-0 spurt to get within 13-12 before Ragland landed a kill, and then teamed with Ocampo to finish it. Ocampo had four of his five blocks in the decisive fifth set.
Eastern Mennonite stifled Marymount to a team hitting mark of -.011 over the final three sets.
Lutz led the charge, tying his career high with 10 blocks, including two solo. The middle also had 10 against Marymount on March 22 of this season. Josh Elmore (Chester, Va./Matoaca), Ragland and Ocampo each got in on five blocks. Eight of the men's 20 stuffs were solo.
Libero Micah Buller (Richmond, Va./Douglas Freeman) led the back line with 16 digs, while Ragland added 11.
Ragland had a great all-around match, adding a team-best 18 kills with a .385 attack mark. The Royals out-hit MU .275 to .174. Lutz added 11 kills with Elmore landing nine.
Senior Scott Brigham (Montpelier, Va./Patrick Henry) had six kills before leaving with an injury late in the second set. Callahan, who replaced him on the court, also finished with six. Setter Christian Taylor (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) ended up with 45 assists.
TJ Wiechecki took 69 swings for Marymount and led all players with 31 kills. Tomasz Ksiazkiewicz was second with 13 kills on 28 attacks and added five of the Saints' 12 blocks.
EMU improved to 22-10 and tied their program record for wins in a season. The 2007 team finished 22-11, but the Royals have not won more than 16 matches since then.
Marymount falls to 19-10 and is left hoping on an outside chance for an at-large bid to the 12-team NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show airs online at 10:00am on Monday.
Coach Ross Madden said that defense won the day: